A roller coaster week

To say this week has been crazy would be such an understatement.

On Friday, I joined the Clounies (my other family), Adam, Sasha and Dima for one last lake day before my best friend Bruce left for his three-month stay in Montana. As always, we had a wonderful time—boating, tubing and laughing.

When Bruce first mapped out his route to Montana, the guys (Bruce, Michael and Adam) talked about turning it into a road trip, but when Michael and Adam bailed, I suggested that I tag along for a while. I could keep him company (and drive some), and he could take me by my parents’ place in Wisconsin, since it was more or less on his way.

I talked to my dad about our plan and it wasn’t hard to get him on board. We agreed to surprise my mom. You see, my mom is the one who is always doing thoughtful things for everyone else; so, it was high time that we did something special for her.

So, lots of planning and a few lies later, Bruce and I set off on a 1,000-mile road trip, while my mom thought I was still at the lake, soaking up the sun.

We left at 5:30 a.m. (ET) on Saturday and drove through North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, to arrive in Appleton around 12:30 a.m. (CT) Sunday. Let me just say, I will be perfectly happy if I NEVER see a cornfield again.

Daddy took Mamma to the latest (and longest) movie showing at the theater to buy us time. When we arrived at their apartment complex, we parked a few units down; then, we opened the garage door with the opener my dad had left in his unlocked car. When they got home and my mom walked inside, I was standing in the hallway in front of the door.

Mamma screamed… like, a blood curdling of scream.

It. Was. Priceless.

Almost as soon as my parents got home, Bruce and I both crashed (he on the couch, me in my bedroom). The next morning, we had breakfast, and then Bruce set off on the rest of his journey to Montana and we headed off to church.

On Wednesday, my mom and I went on a day trip to Chicago. I had never been, so we planned hit the highlights: the Magnificent Mile (particularly the Ghirardelli store), Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”), Navy Pier, Giordano’s and, of course, Chick-fil-A (the closest one to my parents’ house is 133 miles away and my mom hasn’t had it in months!).

We were able to get to them all except Navy Pier. Our plan was to do everything we could, then drive over close to Navy Pier (our parking garage closed at 10 p.m.), park and see the fireworks at the pier. However, when we got over to Navy Pier, the only parking we could find was more than $20. We decided that was absolutely ridiculous, so we watched them from our car in a yacht club’s parking lot. That being said, we didn’t make it to Navy Pier, which was disappointing, but I got to do everything else on my to-do list.

I love big cities and Chicago was no exception. There’s just something about being surrounded by tall buildings and bustling sidewalks full of people that I find so invigorating.

We traveled around the city via car, bus and the El.

Traffic was horrible. Whoever said D.C. has the worst traffic, obviously hasn’t driven in downtown Chicago.

We bought all-day fun passes for Chicago’s public transportation, which meant we had unlimited rides on their busses and the El.

I was pretty impressed with their bus system. Each bus stop had a map, was clearly labeled and said which way each bus was heading. I had no problems using Google Maps. Our bus driver was pretty cranky though, but at least it was easy to find the right bus to ride.

Now, the El (Chicago’s subway system) was a completely different story. One of the stations that we went to was up several flights of stairs. While that’s not an issue for my 22-year-old body, it was for my mom, who has arthritis and is recovering from knee surgery. Also, the signage was incredibly unclear about which track went in which direction.

If I could take Chicago’s bus system and combine it with D.C.’s metro system, I’d be a happy camper (errr… rider)!

While we were at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, a guy about my age asked me if I could take a picture of him and his girlfriend. I agreed and he gave me a quick tutorial on how to use his phone’s camera. After I took the first photo, he asked me to take a couple more. As I began to take the second photo, he turned his back to me, got down on one knee and asked his girlfriend to marry him. Seconds seemed like minutes, I (the bystander/photographer) was so surprised and excited that I was shaking! She said yes, they kissed, they hugged, and he put the ring on her finger. It was so cool to be a little part of their special moment!

Tomorrow we’re taking a day trip to Door County. It’s a beautiful Wisconsin peninsula that juts out into Lake Michigan. Door County is particularly well known for its cherries. As it so happens, tomorrow is the annual Summer Harvest Cherry Fest, so we’re going to picnic, go to the festival and pick some cherries.

With everything that has been going on, this week has been quite an emotional roller coaster. Saying goodbye to Bruce on Sunday was really hard.

Friends like Bruce, the loyal, consistent ones that encourage and challenge you are hard to come by… losing that, even if it is only for a short period of time, is particularly difficult. He’s only going to be gone for three months, which isn’t so bad (except for the lack of cell phone service, and probably Internet as well… and knowing Bruce, I’m not holding my breath for snail mail).

I think the thing that I’m struggling with the most is that it seems like all my friends are on their own big adventures. They have jobs. Their families are close by. They’re busy. And I’m still floundering around without a job… or even a social life.

On the other hand, I’ve had a lot of fun this week. I’ve been really happy. I’ve enjoyed spending time with my family and going on fun adventures. So, as I said… it’s a roller coaster.

Whew! That was a lot… I think that’s enough for one post.

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Just a typical day in the life of Jeanie…

I was going to make my first post on this blog something deep and introspective… but it just wasn’t happening.  So instead, I present you with this little anecdote from my day.

Today was an adventure to say the least.

This past Tuesday, I started working as the N.C. State Fair Public Relations intern.  I work smack dab in the middle of downtown Raleigh.  The location is absolutely fantastic… and horrific.  It’s fantastic because it’s nestled in the historic portion of Raleigh… right across from the capital building.  Both the history and natural science museums are less than five minutes away from my office.  Krispy Kreame (and many other delicious eateries) is within walking distance of my office as well.  However, the parking is either non-existent or absolutely unrealistically priced ($20 to park for one day… say what?).  As I sat down and looked for the most economical option for parking, it became apparent that the only way to not spend all the money I make this summer, is to take advantage of my fair city’s public transportation.  Yes, you read that right.  Jeanie Groh will be taking the bus to work this summer.

This morning, I made my way to Triangle Town Center to catch the 7:20 Express Line to downtown Raleigh.  The bus was fairly full, but a nice lady quickly offered me the seat beside her.  Things went fairly smoothly as we made our way downtown (although I did have a mini-heart attack when I looked up from my phone and realized that we were not where I was expecting us to be).  Well, the lady beside me pulled the little line on the edge of the bus and the bus stopped and let her off.  (I had no idea that that really worked in real life.)  So, I got fairly close to where I work, pulled the little line and got off.  I felt so empowered.  I rode the bus to work, I can take on the world… right?

Wrong.

Work went without a hitch today (sans the little blisters I started to develop on my feet when we walked to lunch).  I finished up what I needed to finish, turned in my time card and made my way to Moore Square to catch the bus home.  I had enough time to get to Moore Square, but not too much time to spare.  Well, when I got there, I couldn’t figure out where to find my bus.  There was a sign for the R line, but none for any other busses.  Well, as 5:20 crept nearer and nearer, I began to panic.  I jumped on the first bus that stopped and asked the driver if this was the bus going to Triangle Town Center.

“No, honey.  This bus ain’t going to Triangle Town Center.  You’ll need to get on the Red Line.  That might be your bus right there.  If you hurry, you might be able to catch it.”

I don’t know if that next bus was the right bus or not, but I didn’t make it to the bus before it rolled away.  I looked down at my phone.  5:21.  I knew that it was too late.  There was no way of finding my bus.  Wherever it was, it was gone.

I continued walking around the edge of Moore Square and eventually found where all of the busses stop.  I searched for a map and tried to find an alternate route home.  No such luck.  I was either going to have to wait for the 6:20 bus or call one of my parents and have them come pick me up.

When the realization that I wasn’t getting home any time soon finally sank in, I snapped back into reality.  The sights, smells and sounds of Moore Square immediately came into focus.  The muggy air was oppressive and the smell of diesel permeated the air.  The sighs and squals of the huge busses were almost overpowering.  And then, I saw all the people.  I hadn’t realized how many people were around me.  I also hadn’t realized how much I didn’t fit in.

I decided to walk around the station to familiarize myself with it for the next time that I made the trek home.  That was a mistake… I hadn’t even made it halfway around before a gentleman–errr… man–stopped me.  What did he want?  To know “whether or not I had a husband or anything.”  I brushed him off and muttered, “I’m taken.”

It was then that I decided that I needed to get as far away as I possibly could–as fast as I possibly could.  I clutched my purse tighter to my side, averted my gaze to the ground (I was done making eye contact with strange people for the day) and hoped no one could see how red my cheeks were.

I originally planned to walk back over to where I work and walk around the museums as I waited for my fearless father to arrive.  But as soon as I started to feel safe, big, fat raindrops began to fall from the sky and I was forced to take shelter under the closest awning.

Fortunately, the smell of freshly baked bread met me under the awning and I realized I had run straight to the doors of a Subway.  I ducked in and made the little table by the door my home for the next 30 minutes while I waited on my dad to make his way downtown.  He finally made it and we eventually made it back home safe and sound (with a pizza in tow).

So…. that was my adventure.  I hope you enjoyed it!