Wednesday, October 21, 2015

It's never just a game

My heart was racing as my name was pulled from a glass bowl at the office: I had won two bleacher seat tickets to the Cubs playoff game. It was Oct. 14, 2003.
I began making elaborate arrangements. My father volunteered to make the hours-long trek to bring my then 14-year-old son to my office so we could make it to Wrigleyville on time.
We parked on the street in my old neighborhood, Andersonville, and walked to the L, stopping at Walgreens to buy an extra pair of socks: It was only 43 degrees out.

I may have gotten a little teary thinking about the first time I took my son to a Cubs game when he was 8 or so. It was a gorgeous summer day and on a whim I said, “hey, let’s go to a game.” We hopped on the L and headed to Addison Street. We bought tickets from a man with two to spare. Kerry Wood was pitching, and my son kept score with a little help from the dude who sold us the tickets. Wrigley was sporting its typical beer garden vibe.

I don’t remember if the Cubs won. I do remember feeling like an all-American, super cool, single mom taking her son to a ballgame. There were hot dogs and sodas, beers and a Kerry Wood T-shirt purchase.

It is parenthood perfection when you and your child enjoy the same thing; it’s solidified when you both fondly remember an event almost 20 years later. That day was it.

A few Red Line stops later we were among the flock of fans. We raced to our seats with the usual mix of excitement and dread about how good your sightlines would be. But this game was different. The crowd trickling in was tightly wound. The air was charged with negative ions. It was cold and there was too much at stake for the Cubs.

Moments after we sat down I witnessed men knocking over kids to get the practice balls the Cubs were tossing to the stands. Fans nearby chastised them, “hey asshole, that’s not cool.” When one of them tripped, someone yelled “ha ha, douchebag, serves you right.”
The bleachers appeared to be populated by well-connected, fair-weather fans who on a hot July day wouldn’t be caught dead in the bleachers. They chatted about how they scored tickets and how jealous all their friends and family were that they were at this game. On behalf of real baseball fans, I hated them just a bit.

I’m sure my son and I chatted about the lineup, the odds, the Cubs history and lore – like any typical game we’d attended over the years. But with playoff games an edge-of-your-seat seriousness takes over and baseball is no longer the national pastime; it’s a competitive sport. Between the fair-weather fans, and the do-or-die plays, the ballpark vibe was light years away from a convivial beer garden, even though the Cubs were winning.

Then the shit hit the fan.

Even from our perspective across the field you could see the man reach out to grab the ball out of Moises Alou’s glove. Almost immediately the crowd began chanting “ASS-HOLE ASS-HOLE.” Did we chant along? I can’t remember. I like to think we didn’t.

As the game imploded, and the Cubs steadily fell behind, I couldn’t help but feel it was because of the fans. Not the one “asshole” who snagged the ball, but the collective crowd spewing negative energy and hate across the field. How could a team recover?
Suddenly I didn’t feel like the hip, cool mom who scored playoff tickets to watch our beloved team. I felt embarrassed to be in the crowd, and I felt bad for bringing my son along to witness it. The sun permanently set on the brilliant memory of our first baseball game.

The return trip to the ‘burbs was especially long after that cold loss that will live in infamy as The Bartman Game. I wondered if we’d ditch baseball. And I worried that my son and I would never again share a day like that first, perfect baseball game. I wondered if we’d ever return to Wrigley.

Of course we returned. We’re Cubs fans.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The worst breakup ever

There were signs our relationship was floundering – ignored phone calls and emails, a general lack of passion for any of my ideas or efforts, a sudden interest in a glossy new girl. The relationship just wasn't working. We had financial troubles I couldn't help conquer, and our communication had become strained. We weren't alone; other long-term relationships like ours were falling apart all around us.
But I held out hope we might make it work; that one day he'd look at me and say, 'I still need you and want to find a place for you in my life.' Then came the fatal Wednesday when he summoned me to a meeting. Alone in his office he broke the news, our long-term relationship was over: my job had been eliminated.
I got to keep the laptop (the new girl would want her own). He set me up with some extra money to help me stay on my feet. There were other things offered to soften the blow, but I was too devastated to listen carefully.  He didn't bother to thank me for the 15 years I devoted to the partnership. That hurt the most.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and went to pack some things. My few hurried goodbyes were met with tears and shocked faces.
Grabbing a box of tissue, I fled the historic institution that had been my beloved work home for more than a decade.
Like any jilted lover, I called my best friends to commiserate. They took me out for drinks. Over vodka tonics, I cried, "why me?" and "who's going to love me now?"  Friends told me I'd get over it, that I'd be better off, bounce back in no time, find someone new. He was a bad boyfriend after all. He sapped me of my youth and vitality. He gave me little in return. Plus, he was geographically undesirable – expecting me to travel four hours a day to get to him.  I felt better. The possibilities of being single again filled my imagination. I wouldn't be jobless for long. My new coworkers are going to love me even more.
Once word got out that I was dumped, advice was plentiful. I knew the best advice was don't rebound. Tempting as it was to get my online social profile updated and start looking for matches, I didn't. I need time to get over it. I didn't want to rush into something new only to have my heart broken again.
So, days stretched into weeks and then months. I did all the woman scorned things. I listened to sad music, ate candy and ice cream, watched endless hours of Netflix and HBO, met friends for lunch and drinks. I told everyone I was doing fine.
I tricked myself into thinking I was better off alone. I even tried dating a bit – accepting a few freelance assignments. And I picked up a sweet volunteer gig hoping to make new connections while sharing my skills. I traveled a bit and spent hours deep cleaning parts of my house neglected when I was in an all-consuming relationship with my work.
Well-meaning friends tried to set me up with opportunities. I half-heartedly pursued them. An inertia had set in. I feared rejection so much that I didn't put myself out there. My self-esteem plummeted and real sadness set in. I started crying daily and ruminating about what happened. What did she have that I didn't? Why couldn't I have seen it coming and made self-improvements to save the relationship? Was it my age?
As is the case in any breakup after a long-term relationship, there were people I wouldn't be seeing anymore and I missed them. I longed for the the camaraderie, the "you rock" emails for projects done, fires put out, advice given.
I even missed the short naps the moving train lulled me into during my commute. One particularly sad day I cried when I opened my closet and looked at all my work clothes and shoes.
Why was I taking this so hard? It was a business decision after all. It just wasn't meant to be. We were never going to grow old together.
Now my Severance Summer is starting to wind down. It's time to put myself out there. I've taken some baby steps. I started writing again. I'm pursuing networking in earnest. I'm making lists. I'm getting back into shape. I'm updating my LinkedIn profile.
I'm going to be ready to welcome Mr. Right Work into my life.
Wish me luck and spread the word that I'm back on the market, will you?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cover letter template

I'm writing cover letters for the first time in almost two decades. I still hate it as much as I did then, and 35 years ago when I was first starting my career. When I was a hiring manager, I almost never read cover letters. Why, oh, why, must this practice continue?
I'm muddling through it. But all the while, here's the cover letter I want to send every single time:

Dear hiring manager:

You should hire me.
I will show up on time, well dressed, smelling good, and quietly set about doing whatever you tell me to do. 
If you don't have anything to tell me to do, I will look around, ask around, make calls, send out emails looking for something that needs to be done. Then, I will do it.
I will gladly organize your office potlucks, be your office safety guard for fire drills, call maintenance when there's a weird smell, make coffee, and show up cheerfully at meetings and participate (without using the words and phrases like "shitshow" "clusterfuck" "I call bullshit").
I will proofread anything anyone throws at me. I will rewrite your reports. I will write performance reviews. I will craft your values and mission statements. I will write the email tactfully telling the smelly guy to practice better hygiene.
Need someone with a three-decade track record of NOT being the office loud talker, low talker, stinky food eater, microwave pig, or restroom cell phone user? Looking for an employee who doesn't use the time while you are speaking to rehearse what she going to say next, but actually listens to you? Seeking someone who has a sense of humor AND a work ethic?  I'm your woman.

Call me, email me, IM me on facebook, twitter, LinkedIn. I will respond 24-7.
Thanks for your time.

The Future Your Company Staffer, Lori Botterman

Thursday, April 17, 2014

In concert

You have this great friend.

She’s quirky and artsy and complicated and different from you. You love her.

She has a boyfriend who you love too because he’s not like her but he really gets her and makes her happy.

Then they get married and move away. You lose touch for many, many years.

You think about them occasionally, especially when you hear certain songs from the ‘80s.
The social network happens and you reconnect with them.

They were in bigger, better city, but now they live close by.

They still like you. You haven't done anything over the years to piss them off.

Your laughter together still sounds the same.

You remember she was a great cook and they invite you over for an amazing meal. And in the background they are playing all the music you love. Music that happened AFTER they went away. You realize you both love The Pixies. The National. Nick Cave.

You discover he has become a cocktail aficionado with a collection of bitters. Over exotic drinks with names like The Sanchez and Hemingway on the Beach, you catch up.

You make plans to see some shows.

And your musical heart soars. You now have OLD friends who like the same NEW music as you.

He follows through. He gets tickets to The Pixies. He gets tickets to The National.

The show date arrives.

Your divergent paths have led you to this very same moment together. In a glorious old theater, in plush balcony seats, drink in hand, next to two of your oldest and dearest friends, the lights go down, the crowd starts to whistle and cheer, the band takes the stage. And though you can't hear it over the beautiful rock n' roll din, you can feel your heart beat in tandem with theirs.

Lucky you.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Five things to say to a friend whose job sucks

Recently a good friend of mine sent me one of those ubiquitous "Top 5 Reasons" stories. It was something to the effect of "Top 5 Ways to Know It's Time To Quit Your Job." I thought the story should be filed in the "Thank You Ron Obvious" folder. I responded that people would be better served with useful advice like "how to survive your sucky job until you can get another one" or this: 

Five things to say to a friend whose job sucks

Just because the economy is reportedly improving, doesn't mean everyone is able to immediately find new or more satisfying work. And for those with spouses, family and good friends who are disenchanted with their jobs (i.e. 99 percent of the adult population) here are five new platitudes to deliver when you are told "My job sucks so hard and I can't get out of there fast enough":

 1. "I'm sorry." Then stop. Let your friend vent. Nod occasionally or make other "yes-I'm-listening" signals and wait it out until the diatribe is over.

 2. "Man, I'm really sorry." Then stop. Let the person cry, shout expletives and defame his or her boss as a cock-sucking asshole worthy of the 11th circle of Hell.

 3. "Oh dear, I AM very sorry." Then stop. Let your loved one apologize for making you listen to his or her endless rant-a-roos about their horrendous situation. Toss in an occasional: "That IS gawd-awful. You are so better than that."

 4. "Dude, I'm extra sorry. That sucks." Then stop. Gaze into their eyes and give them that "yeah-I-get-it-but-I-still-love-you-and-lets-move-on" look.

 5. "Whoa. I didn't mean to be patronizing. I really do care. Let's go to DQ or get liquored up." Stop. Let your friend begin the litany again if necessary because you really do care and that's what friendship is all about, you bitch.

I'm happy to report these five tips actually worked. My friend was amused. (Unless he's off writing "5 Things to Say When Your Friend Is a Bitch.")

Monday, December 30, 2013

13 for 2013

Kevin reflects on the year with me.
Kevin suggested I make a list my “favorites” of 2013. If nothing else, it’ll be fun to look back on this next year at this time.

Here’s my Top 13 of 2013 in no particular order:

First picture I took:
Cow's heart at MSI
1. Best acquisition: Sony Alpha-NEX 6 camera. Having a really, really nice, idiot-proof camera has enriched my life. Viewing the world from behind a camera is strangely freeing. I can really look at people, landscapes, food — whatever, with an excuse to study. And better still, I can capture moments and relive them up-close at my own pace.

Jenny Scott, Laura Vasilion and I
on way to Lit Fest
2. Best event: Printers Row Lit Fest, author discussion with Aleksandar Hemon and Colum McCann. Hearing two of today’s most exciting authors discuss their work and their friendship was a big dorky thrill for me. Hemon answered my question about how he met McCann and the answer turned into a group sing-along of “Molly Malone” lead by McCann. Later we met the authors in person and got signed copies of their books which leads to….

3. Best book(s): “TransAtlantic” by McCann and “The Book of My Lives” by Hemon. Each is so beautiful it its own way. “TransAtlantic” is a rich tapestry, lyrically weaving three historical events across time and continents with vivid characters creating a deeply moving story. “The Book of My Lives” is Hemon’s memoir of his life in Bosnia and eventual immigration to Chicago and struggles to assimilate. One of his stories made me cry so hard that it took my breath away.

4. Best Team Effort: Assisting in the election of my friend Steve Vasilion to Batavia’s city council. Kevin and I co-managed Steve’s first foray into local government. Steve won handily. But perhaps the best part was getting to work on this campaign with Kevin and share some great memories of his brother Patrick to boot.

5. Best Individual Accomplishment: Public reading of “Betty’s Performance Review.” I submitted this work to the Waterline Writers group’s call for animal related stories to be included at a reading for Anderson Animal Shelter’s top donors. The reading was a blast and the story actually got a lot of laughs.

Lisa Jevens and I in Macataw, Michigan.
6. Best Trip: Southwest Michigan wine tour. A work project on Michigan’s wine country happened to coincide with my dear friend and writer Lisa Jeven’s stay in Macataw, Mich. She invited me to stay in their cottage. We spent one beautiful summer day touring wineries and enjoying tastings.

Becky Parr at the VB Outlet
Sale in Ft. Wayne
7. Craziest Trip: Vera Bradley Outlet Sale, Ft. Wayne, Ind. Yep, I did this. I took time off work and traveled with college roomie Becky Parr to Ft. Wayne’s convention center where an entire showroom floor was filled with acres of Vera Bradley quilted madness. For our allotted 2 hours we grabbed up all kinds of deeply discounted wallets, purses, totes, scarves, belts, etc. We were among thousands of other women. Whoa.

8. Best TV show: “Game of Thrones.” I binged-watched the entire series over the course of a month, catching up in time to watch the current season. This show is “Lord of the Rings” with women and sex. It’s beautifully shot, well acted and all-around dazzling.

9. Best restaurant experience: Kevin and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary at Altiro, a Latin fusion tapas restaurant in Geneva. I love fancy tacos, cucumber cocktails, and extremely dark restaurants. Altiro has all of the above.

10. Best home dining experience: White Chicken chili: Together in the kitchen for just this one time only, Kevin and I made a healthy chicken chili. We copied the recipe from his sister Mary Jo, who served it to us at her place. We recreated it and actually made it better (spicier, Joey). It was delicious — mostly because we made it together.

11. Best movie: “World’s End.”I think I saw less than a handful of movies this year. This zombie comedy was the most entertaining, but it was a weak year for movies in my opinion.

View from Jeweler's Building
at night.
Mark Bonne and Spencer at
Kemper Building.
12. Best “Art” Exhibit: Open House Chicago: Hard to narrow it down this year, as I saw three excellent exhibits at the Art Institute, including Impressionism and Fashion, the Neapolitan Creche, and Art and Appetite. But the CAF’s Open House Chicago event was spectacular this year. I was fortunate to have a VIP tour that included the top of the Jeweler’s Building (JAHN) at night. But better still was spending a wacky day with my ex, Mark Bonne, and my son Spencer touring the entire city and sites as varied as the Aqua Radisson Hotel, the Decorator’s Studio (maker of plaster decorative moldings since the Columbian Exhibition), and Chicago’s only contemplative monastery, The Monastery of The Holy Cross where we heard the monks chant Vespers. Spence said CAF should stand for "Cool As Fuck."

Lana and I at my birthday party.
13. Best Celebration: 50th Birthday. My friends and family helped me throw a decadent “7 Deadly Sins” party. I was the embodiment of Pride that night — so proud to count so many wonderful, fun, amazing people among my friends and family.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I Hope You Like My Gift

My family doesn't go in much for traditions at Christmas, or any other time really. The holidays are typically fraught with phone calls over who is doing what and where. Organized efforts are never met with resistance, but never expected either.
My family of origin, plus cat Liesl, 1984.
This used to drive me nutty, especially when polite inquiries into others' holiday plans are answered beginning: "Well, we always...."
I am the one who typically answers such questions this way: "We are doing something different this year...."
This year is traditional in its non-traditional way. Kevin and I will spend Christmas Eve and
Christmas Day alone together. I can't speak for him, but for me, this is just perfect. We have or will catch up with all our other family and friends over the coming weeks. But these two days are just for us. We made plans for an early church service and dinner reservations at the local Italian restaurant. He came home with a stack of dvds from the library ("Bravehart" and "Heaven's Gate" among them). I'm going to attempt to make butternut squash soup for the first time. We will take turns walking the dog in the bitter cold. We will exchange small gifts and stocking stuffers.
I can't remember a Christmas I have so looked forward to since I was 10.
Perhaps the greatest gift of all will be the time to reflect on all of my Christmases past. I will think of those no longer with us. I will remember the shots of imported German brandy my Grandfather Edward poured for his very under-aged granddaughters. I will recall the beautiful hand-knit sweaters and walnut torte my Omi crafted. I will remember their foreign conversations, my dad translating everything he thought would be interesting. And I will remember the ride back from Chicago to the suburbs sometimes ending with a stop at White Castles.
I will remember my dad raving about Aunt Jean's cooking. I will remember her and Uncle Ronnie's and the 7-foot tall white, rotating Christmas tree with a colored spotlight beaming up to it from the floor. We opened gifts underneath that tree, one year listening to Uncle Ronnie's new favorite album: Elton John's "Goodbye Yellowbrick Road." And I will remember my cousin Judi taking me upstairs to her impossibly groovy attic bedroom for a glimpse into her world of a popular teen girl.
I will remember my Grandpa Bernie dancing an Irish jig. I will remember my Grandma Cogan's free-flowing martinis, crazy outfits, and "dizzy blonde" stories.
I will remember Kevin's brother Patrick's garlic mashed potatoes, his washing all the dishes, and rough-housing with his six nephews and one lucky niece.
And as it has been now for the past six Christmases, the memories of my Dad at Christmas will be overwhelming. I will cry when I remember how much he claimed to hate Christmas and openly mocked "the little baby Jesus," drank too much, and always, always opened every gift from me and said: "You shouldn't get me a gift. Being with you and my family is all I need."