Sunday, June 01, 2008


Well, I'm rebooting the blog for shameless fundraising reasons: I'm going to be running in the Chicago Marathon in October, and I've got to raise money for the charity I'm sponsoring.

So why run a marathon? Well, because right now my life is still in a sort of holding pattern (which was the reason I stopped blogging to begin with) and while I'm waiting to find out where I'll be living and what I'll be doing next, one thing I've got a lot of is time. I probably won't have it, later. I've got my health, too, and I know well enough that it might not last. I've already been running for five years, first to lose weight (it works), and then just because it made me feel better. So, one reason is "Because I can."

And, y'know, to impress myself, and people I know. 'Cause it's a freakin' marathon, so they'd better be impressed.

But I like to think there's a little more to it too.

I say on my fundraising page that living in Chicago has made me a different person. Maybe this is a good place to explain what I meant by that. Living here during the 2003 Cubs almost trip to the World Series made me like sports for the first time, and better yet, like sports fans. It was the sense of community that got me, if I can say that without being a cliche. All of the sudden I had something to bond with strangers on the train over. Riding the "L" here taught me the joys of people-watching and gave me a huge variety of people to watch, not to mention windows to spy into. Running in the lakefront parks let me see people at their happiest and most likable. And then there are the festivals -- Taste of Chicago, free concerts all summer long, the lights and the giant tree and ice skaters in Millenium Park and the Marshall Fields/Macy's shop windows at Christmas time, the giant parties where everyone in the city is your friend.

I joined Twilight Tales and started hanging out in the coolest bar in the city (the closed-for-remodelling Red Lion, in case you're wondering.) And I met my husband here in Illinois. He's taken me to the Air and Water Show and the movies in Grant Park, not to mention all three local drive-in theaters, a whole bunch of sports games, to the Arlington Park horse races this weekend, to the Blue Man Group, and all the best deep dish pizza places, and whole host of other attractions downtown and in the suburbs. Mostly he's made me take myself less seriously, and learn to have fun for fun's sake.

Since I've lived in Chicago, I've become more athletic, less snobbish, more outgoing, less insecure. I'm still socially awkward, but I like other people more, and that makes a huge difference. Chicago unpinched a nerve somewhere in my psyche, and now I'm a much happier person.

But it just doesn't look like we're going to find jobs in Chicago, and so I have to accept that we're going to have to move, probably within the next year or so. And then the life I've been waiting for begins in earnest... My feelings are little more mixed these days. I'm not so eager to get on with "real jobs" making "real money" (although I would really, really like dental insurance) and a nicer place to live and maybe start a family. I still want all of that, but I don't really want this life in Chicago to end. I'm pretty ambivalent about the idea of moving on, right now.

Anyway, the Chicago Marathon struck me as a way to say goodbye to this city. It's an awesome course. They close off streets downtown and you get to start along the lakefront and then run through all the distinctive neighborhoods that give Chicago its personality (sometimes practical, sometimes whimsical.) There will be forty-five thousand runners. That's more people than Wrigley Field holds, even after the renovations.

What a way to make memories, eh? I mean, I never feel I know my way around a place until I've navigated it on foot, so this should help me know Chicago better than ever. I generally am on foot when I'm downtown anyway, but I don't usually go 26 miles.

I got obsessed with this idea all in an instant, and I can't even remember what made me think of it, now. But once I had, I couldn't let go. I waited a few days, to see if I would come to my senses, but I didn't.

The only problem was, it was already too late to register. Who'd've thought an event in October would be booked up by the middle of April. But there was still a way. I could do it in support of a charity.

I researched all the charities they listed, not sure if I was willing to bet $500-$1000 (the range of the required fundraising minimums) that I could do this, and get other people to support me in it. I decided I would only do it if I could find a charity that would use the money to help people in the city who are poorer than me. (No "research" charities for me right now -- not that I oppose supporting my fellow grad students, but this is about saying thank you to the city, where there are people who need help on a much shorter timescale than research requires.)

It did a lot of reading and some e-mailing, looking for a cause that would be worth the risk, worth the effort, and finally found the Union League Boys and Girls Club.

Membership fee:
$5.00. No child is ever turned away for inability to pay—there are several ways for children to earn their membership by helping out around the Club.

That's $5 for the year. And what do they get for their money?

Core program areas:

* Character & Leadership Development
* Outdoor & Environmental Education
* Education & Career Development
* Sports, Fitness & Recreation
* Arts & Cultural Education
* Health & Life Skills

Well, that's pretty vague. It sounds good, but what does it mean?

Well, "Character and Leadership" means teens run a working credit union for other Club members, gaining work experience while their customers learn to save and manage money. At least, that's one of their programs; there are more.

"Outdoor & Environmental Education" means they run a summer camp in Wisconsin, which is the first chance a lot of these city kids have to get out of the city.

"Education & Career Development" means homework help, tutoring, computer training, and job skills.

"Sports, Fitness & Recreation" means:
Kickball, soccer, flag football, hockey, games room and tournaments, penny carnival, back-to-school block party, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas Party, swimming, sports skill clinics, movie time, summer picnics and trips, daily gym, Nike Go Program, urban fishing, three-on-three basketball, intramural sports, varsity teams in football and volleyball, basketball games and tournaments, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, Teen Center, and much, much more.

"Arts & Cultural Education" means dance, theater, music, talent shows, and painting, sculpture, murals, and print.

And "Health & Life Skills" means they give the kids healthy dinners and snacks at the clubs, which guarentees they're getting healthy food somewhere, at least. And they have basic health training too.

I can't imagine a better way to help make Chicago and the world a better place, than by helping out these guys. Seems to me they do everything you could possibly ask for. And they do it for 10,000 kids, for $5 a year.

So I'm supporting them. And I hope you'll support me. Donate here, and help motivate me through mile 26.

I'll be posting updates on my training (and probably links I find cool and neat things I do on the weekends, because this is still a blog) as October approaches.


Simon said...

Goes the reboot. Or so it would, were your blog an old Mac.

Welcome back, from somebody who never got around to removing the feed from their RSS reader :-)

Dave Munger said...

Donated, even though I've never read your blog! I went to college in Chicago -- *love* that city -- and I've run a half-marathon (never a whole), so I know how challenging this task will be.

Plus, it sounds like a great charity!

Good luck!

Mary said...

Thank you so much, Dave Munger. You made my day, and hopefully some kids' days too. I do read your blog, BTW. :-)