Greetings from Ohio! Well, I've shipped my hostess off to bed so I can write a long, rambling and probably incoherent report of the "Great Chicago Weekend".
I'm so glad I went - I admit to having fleetingly considered dropping out when so many of the others couldn't make the trip and I WAS feeling rather ashamed and embarrassed for recently having gained back some weight. But if I had opted out, it would have just been another example of letting my weight sabotage my enjoyment of life! I had the best time and left the Windy City with renewed faith and ambition thanks to my fabulous cohorts!
I WAS going to write that we spent the entire weekend exercising, talking about weight issues and eating nothing but steamed vegetables, but feared I'd turn to wood and my nose would grow. All things considered though, the truth's not bad at all. We DID do very well and our indulges were few, the best of which had nothing to do whatsoever with food!
Let me start by giving my impressions of my fellow revellers:
I recognized Sandi immediately (though somehow I'd pictured her with Jacob stuck to the side of her face
). Sandi is the kind of person who puts you immediately at ease and is so comfortable to be with; she's quick-witted, agreeable, warm and sensitive, yet has an "I'm not going to take any crap" assertiveness that makes you say "You Go Girl!". Our personalities meshed very well (she's sort of a kinder, gentler version of me), which was fortunate seeing as we shared a room (and shared secrets far into the wee hours of the morn). Being with Sandi was like meeting up with your best friend from kindergarten after several years and finding nothing had changed (I did put my foot down when she requested a pillow-fight at 3 am though).
I was rather intimidated at the thought of meeting Jiffy because I'm rather in awe of her, but it wasn't long before I began thinking of her as my "Joizey" soul-sister. She manages to combine perception, compassion, intelligence, and eloquence, with sage, sensible advice and an extremely wry sense of humour. In other words, she's a very wise woman as well as quite a wiseguy. She had a habit of stopping, smiling widely and exclaiming "I'm just so happy we're here together!", which usually resulted in a group hug.
I think Bev is one of the sweetest persons I've known - she doesn't have an insincere or artificial bone in her body and that's truly refreshing. She's very mature, but with a childlike enthusiasm that's very endearing. Boiaby is only a year older than my own daughter, yet never did I perceive a generation gap and I felt we got along famously (who knows, maybe she was just humouring the old broad). Although she's so slight, she possesses a steely strength and her determination is something to behold. If she has a fault, it's being too humble for her accomplishments. She had warned us that she was very shy and timid, and she initially lived up to that reputation (I've been forbidden to discuss her impromptu striptease at the karaoke club).
Although we all come from different locations, are different ages, have different backgrounds and life experiences, we still have so much in common, and believer in fate that I am, I truly think we all would have met up eventually, if not in this forum, then another (Most likely at Shopoholics Anonymous for me and Sandi).
Now, to the matter at hand. My journey had an inaspicious start after having missed my connection at Detroit due to being held up at U.S. customs when it was decided everyone's luggage had to be thoroughly examined (nothing like having someone rifle through your neatly packed undies). As I handed over my identification to the border official, he looked at my photo (taken 2 years ago), then looked at me, then back to the photo and said "You sure that's you?" I gave him my brightest smile and replied "Yes, but I've lost a considerable amount of weight since then". His response? "You look older than her" pointing at the pic. Gee, I guess my formerly chubby-cheeked countenance allowed me a certain youthful look...so much for welcome to the U. S. of A. Anyway, I eventually arrived at the hotel and literally leaped out of the cab and straight into the welcoming arms of Sandi and Jif!
Knowing we had a little wait until Bev's arrival, we decided to take a walkabout tour to get our bearings and scout out some future attractions. Heading back to the hotel we anxiously waited on Bev (her bus was delayed in traffic). Eventually the shuttle showed up, from which the willowy, graceful young Bev emerged - finally we were together - let the fun begin!!
It was now 6ish and seeing as it was Jiffy's birthday, she was allowed to choose the restaurant and we set off walking (prior to the trip we had discussed whether to rent a car or to rely on cabs, but, as it turned out, we ended up walking EVERYWHERE - it's a shame one of us wasn't wearing a pedometer, as it would have been interesting to see exactly how many miles we actually logged). Jif's choice of restaurant was great and we sat on the outside patio of Webber's Grill and consumed a sumptuous meal, all while "behaving". Bev had a grilled chicken salad with vinaigrette, my salad had smoked turkey (also vinaigrette), Sandi's pork came with a choice of fries or veggies and she immediately passed up the fries for string beans (and even ate one, vegetable hater she is). The birthday girl had about 1/8th of her baked ribs and thoroughly enjoyed them. Although we'd planned on celebrating the occasion with a dessert, we decided to put it off until later seeing as we were quite satisfied (as it turned out, we never did get around to having that birthday dessert!) We'd done so well, including sending the bread basket back 1/2 full!
After dinner we walked to Navy Pier, a wonderful combination of boardwalk, shopping, restaurants, children's museum and amusement park. We decided to ride the huge ferris wheel, and although Sandi looked a bit greenish, she managed to take some postcard quality pics of the city from the very top. Since we had a couple of buy one, get one free tickets, I just HAD to ride the "Wave Swings" and actually managed to talk fraidy cat Bev into joining me - what a blast, it was as though we were going to be flung right out of our seats into Lake Michigan and Bev was shrieking like a banshee (or was that me?)
We eventually returned to the hotel to talk. Boy oh boy did we talk (and I thought I managed quite well considering "American" is not my native tongue.) Not having an accent myself (though the others may beg to differ), I was fascinated by Bev's Arkansas drawl and Sandi's mid-western twang. Jif had an amusing habit of lapsing into a Jersey accent that made me feel like I was in an episode of The Sopranos. By no means was our talk limited to weight issues, in fact we talked about everything and everybody
, although we did delve deeply into how much our lives had been affected by our weight, both physically and emotionally, and how dealing with our weight is such a large part of our respective personas, like it or not. We spoke equally of our successes and our struggles, of our heartaches and of our hopes. We share a common goal and a common outlook - we know we'll get there (or, in Bev's case, stay there) and that's a comforting thought. Man, we rock!
Sandi had requested each of us to bring along those items we use as incentive during our "lifestyle" change. I brought my refrigerator...not the contents, but the things I hang on the door to keep me focused when it's time to open that door. There's my Weight Watcher 10lb. ribbons (10 of them), assorted Weight Watcher magnets (25, 50, 75 and 100lb.), my before (fat) pic, my WAYYY before pics (the weight I was and hope to be again) and pics of my loved ones - not that I'm losing the weight for them, but because I want to be around longer to spend more time with them. Bev brought her progress charts showing what an amazing 180lb. weight loss actually looks like on paper. The fact that she devised her own diet and exercise plan and then accomplished what she set out to do is truly incredible. She gamely answered all our questions and accepted our awe without conceit. Her heartwarming anecdote about her little daughter's reaction to her weight loss made our eyes well with tears, which quickly turned to laughter when she recounted a visit to her doctor. He wanted to run a battery of tests on her because there just HAD to be something medically wrong since it's impossible to lose that amount of weight all on one's own. We tried to imagine our meek and mild Boiaby's indignant snort of "Screw you! I DID do it on my own". Needless to say, she has no intention of seeing HIM again.
Sandi brought along her "Motivational Binder", filled with pictures of how she aspires to look physically, outfits she plans on purchasing upon reaching goal, her lists of why she wants to lose weight and how she plans on doing it. She's definitely ready to get to work!! Jiffy frankly talked about how her weight had become life-threatening and spoke in a matter of fact fashion about her life altering surgery. She's an extremely courageous woman.
Well after midnight we decided it was time for some shuteye seeing as we had a full day ahead of us. Up bright and early Saturday morning, we decided to hit the gym first. It was very well equipped, being a private fitness club attached to the hotel for which we were provided guest passes. Sandi and I warmed up on the treadmill while Bev tried out some fancy apparatus that I lasted 30 seconds on. Jiffy concentrated on weights while Sandi, Bev and I sampled the various machines. We worked on our upper arms, chest, thighs, butts, legs and did ab crunches (funny how I became very aware of each of those areas the next day...ouch).
After our workout we had very light breakfasts (between us we had Special K, rye toast, poached and scrambled eggs - at this point I'll mention that the menu offered a special french toast confection made from cinnamon rolls, which got nary a consideration from any of us).
After soothing showers, our refreshed group headed out into the city for a full day of activity. We decided to take a boat cruise before lunch, which was marvellous. It was the "Architectural Tour", which consisted of a cruise up the Chicago River in an open boat with a guide providing a detailed historical background of all the points of interest. After cruising the downtown area (including the Sears Tower, Wrigley Building and one of Al Capone's speakeasies) we went through a lock and then headed right out onto Lake Michigan, where the view of the cityscape was fantastic. It sure was a windy day and the water was rather choppy and the boat lurched wildly, so we were glad of not having had lunch before the cruise!
By the time the cruise was over and we had walked the several blocks to "Taste of Chicago" it was around 3:30 and we decided that "Taste" would be both lunch and dinner (lunner?) There were literally hundreds of booths offering standard fare along with the strange and exotic (i.e. alligator on a stick). The great thing was you could either buy a regular size portion of your chosen food or purchase "tastes", which were tiny little portions, big enough to get a true taste of what you were eating, but small enough that it would take several of them to equal a full meal. Thus, Bev and I were finally able to sample Chicago-style pizza (spinach), without having to eat an entire slice. We indulged in mini portions of such delicacies as pad Thai noodle with tofu, catfish, grilled jerk chicken, frozen grapes and Italian lemon ice. I thoroughly enjoyed it all, with the exception of Jiffy's offering of a taste of her fried green tomatoes (having loved the movie and the book even more). However, I had a violent reaction to it, in that I felt compelled to literally spit my mouthful out, while Jif nonchalantly intoned that, yes indeed, it is an acquired taste (yuuchhhh!)
After such a full day we were pretty much exhausted, but we gamely bypassed a cab and walked back to the hotel so as not to miss any landmarks. We had our picture taken by the lovely Buckingham fountain, which had been donated by Miss Buckingham as a memorial to her beloved brother who perished during the first world war. Unfortunately, it seems to have more fame as the opening shot from that horrid television show, "Married with Children". Speaking of horrid television shows, we also walked past the studio where the Jerry Springer show is taped and Sandi managed to sweet-talk the security guard into letting us pass through the studio building as a shortcut.
Upon arriving back at the hotel, I think we all would have been happy enough to lounge on the bed and chill out with a movie, but we got our second wind after resting our weary bones for awhile and headed back to Navy Pier where we were treated to an amazing firework show (it was hilarious when the first firecracker went off and literally hundreds of seagulls immediately took flight). We walked the pier some more, checked out a few souvenir shops, treated ourselves to an ice cream cone and did some more soul searching. Sandi, inquisitive little miss she is, asked each of us to disclose something about ourselves that nobody else knew, and so we bared our souls and once again proved we are fascinating women (and perhaps in need of a little therapy).
We eventually headed for "home", where Sandi, Jif and I decided to take advantage of room service to order a drink (Bev being content to stick to her water). Although the menu was tempting, we didn't order any food and instead continued our discussions. It was quite enlightening. Sandi talked about a person she really admired and whose attributes she'd like to assume and emulate. She seemed genuinely surprised when Bev, Jif and I looked at each other, then looked at her and said, "You've just described yourself honey!" Sometimes it takes others to show you something you don't see in yourself, I guess. Bev spoke of an extremely unique business idea she was mulling over that struck me as very feasible and lucrative, so I think I'll start nagging her about doing something tangible towards making that work. Jif, being the least self-absorbed person I've met in a long while, spoke little about herself and much about others. She really should consider a career as a "Life Coach", being so astute and always having a suggestion or solution to offer.
Although we were exhausted, we were having such a great time that everyone's spirits were high, even though we were suffering from sleep deprivation and various physical ailments, such as Jiffy's iffy sinuses [methinks she was getting a wee bit of a buzz off those over the counter remedies], Sandi's toe blisters [she managed to keep the whining to a minimum], Boiaby's delicate tummy [I think she did sneak off and have that alligator on a stick at Taste of Chicago] and my unfortunate sunburn [room service never did bring up that soothing mashed cucumber]. Again, well after midnight, we dragged ourselves to our respective beds, that's not to say Sandi and I didn't chatter into the wee hours once again.
Sunday morning we were up at 6:30 so we could have breakfast together before Jif had to leave for the airport - again we stayed away from pancakes, syrup, bacon, etc. I had a delicious concoction of yogurt, granola and fruit in a parfait glass that was to die for!
After we sadly bade farewell to dear Jif and Bev, Sandi and I were left to our own devices for the rest of the day. We decided to satisfy both our desire to hit a tourist spot and our need to shop, by walking (naturally) to the infamous Magnificent Mile. We eventually ended up at a 7 storey mall where Sandi went into full Jacobsmommy mode, purchasing Chicago Cub attire for the little tyke, along with a dubious toy/musical contraption called "Rhythm Sticks" (so, is it too soon to say "I told you so?" - have you had to hide them yet?
) After making purchases for Jacob, her husband, her mom and even her mother-in-law, she pouted that she hadn't got a gift for herself. I pointed out that spending the weekend with us was the best gift she could have given herself, causing her to gag and then slap me upside the head (with a smile).
I have to admit I was beat by that time - lack of sleep, achy from having walked a couple of hundred miles and being sore from sunburn did a number on me, so, when trying on a hat for my upcoming trip to Kentucky, I was depressed to see a weary, aged creature looking back at me from the mirror. Luckily, we soon passed a jewellery store and a necklace called out my name (the matching earrings also chimed in), the purchase of which brightened my spirits somewhat. Soon it was time to head back to the hotel for the last time to retrieve our luggage and head out of town satisfied in the knowledge that our long-planned trip had been a total success from start to finish.
I'd be remiss if I didn't say kudos to Sandi for doing a tremendous job arranging everything - the hotel was in a perfect location smack downtown, with comfy rooms, and her knowledge of the City and its activities made everything run so smoothly. I particularly liked how she arranged that spectacular firework display on Navy Pier to commemorate our last night together.
And thus ends the story of our Chicago trip. Alas, there are those things that, as promised, I am not privy to share as they will stay in Chicago and in our collective memory. Which reminds me Sandi, I did some quick research and the manner in which you first seduced your husband IS an indictable offence in certain States....
All in all it was an educational, motivational, inspirational weekend...oh, and a helluva lot of fun. In fact, several times we laughed to the point of tears! It WAS a shame that so many of the people who had planned to attend had to drop out for one reason or another, and we did miss you all greatly. I'm sure more numbers would have resulted in even more fun, but its great that so many of you were with us in spirit (I carried Mthrgoos along for the ride in my pocket, yes, she's that small now). Hopefully next time there'll be more of you to share along in the experience! So where are we going NEXT year???
P.S. - I'm proud to report that I had a grand total of 2 alcoholic beverages during the entire weekend (neither of which were consumed while performing my "eye trick" - now that I know what it looks like I've determined never to do it again
P.P.S. - I'll be looking to the Chicago Chamber of Commerce to pay me a stipend for this glowing review of its fine city.
I'M BEAT! NIGHT ALL!