Single in the Suburbs is Back!

Welcome back to my Single in the Suburbs blog! I’m reviving this series after more than three years of living and dating in the suburbs of Chicago. Over these last few years, I’ve had too many conversations with friends about how hard it is to meet anyone when you’re in your 20s or 30s and living in the suburbs. Everywhere we go, there are couples and families — and I think it is fair to say that families make up most of the suburban population. For those few singles that are living out here because of work or other circumstances, you’re left wondering, “Where are all the young singles like me hanging out?” Or, like some of us ladies, you’re wondering “Where do the good boys go to hide away?”

I’ve tried speed dating, singles events, networking events,, and dating apps over the last few years. I dated some people I met online and some people I met organically. But even if it seems like the odds out here aren’t as good as they are in the city, I believe that there are many of us in the suburbs…it is just a matter of knowing where to go and what to do if we don’t want to travel to the city every weekend.

I will sometimes post about general dating issues and other times I will review events or locations in the suburbs (and I may even start a podcast). As I revive the blog, I’d like to kick it off with my first location review: BaseCamp Pub & Eatery in Lisle, located at Four Lakes. For many western suburbanites, this may already be a go-to spot, but I made my first trip there this past weekend. I happened to be with some girls who also had never been there before, and one of them turned to me and commented that this is the most guys — and cute guys, at that — that she’d seen at a local bar in a long time. I had to agree. Most suburban bars might have one or two groups of young single guys hanging out, but this time there were several. Not quite up to the level of the former Toby Keith’s in Rosemont, but the most I have seen at a bar in the western suburbs.

90sNightIt certainly helps that you can see live music and there is a large bar. Us ladies had come out that night to listen to boyband hits from Hot Sauce Committee, and it had to be one of the most fun, true nights out I’ve had out in awhile. And by “true nights out” I mean one that involves drinks, dancing, and live music, which is something I only tend to do at bars in Chicago. Sad, but true.

Whether or not I’m going to actually meet a guy I want to date there, it is definitely worth returning to for the music and dancing. And hey, at least the proportion of men to women there is better, and that’s enough to push it to the top of my list!


The Transformation Challenge

As a studious bookworm for much of my young adult life, I dreaded gym class and fitness tests more than any academic exams. I always felt I could master most subjects if I worked hard enough, but I viewed athletics as something that simply wasn’t for me. In elementary school, I pushed my awkward self to try dance and figure skating, and while I managed to make this last for longer than one might expect, I ultimately came to the conclusion that I didn’t have what it took to sustain these activities in the long term (to this day, my hand/eye coordination skills are remedial at best). Combine that with a series of mean-spirited gym teachers who publicly teased me for my lack of physical prowess, and you can understand why I began to believe my name and the words “physically fit” could never be uttered in the same sentence.

But as I posted on this blog back in 2014, I decided I was tired of my clothes not fitting and my weight going up and down, so I took a chance on Pure Barre. With my background in figure skating and ballet, barre workouts turned out to be a great fit for me. I dropped two clothing sizes, and I was able to stick with it.

Now that I am beginning a new year with new challenges, I feel like it is time to master something new. I recently joined the gym near my office, Midtown Spa and Fitness, so I could sneak in quick workouts during my lunch break. When I first heard they were offering an eight week Transformation Challenge, I doubted whether I should do it or if I’d even be able to survive it. Sure, I can take Zumba and kickboxing classes, but lifting weights or doing pull-ups has never been my thing – I pretty much always max out at 5 lb. weights and the last time I tried a legit pull-up in high school, I dropped directly to the ground. (To this day, I can still play back in my mind the eye roll and heavy sigh from my gym teacher that always followed my feeble attempts.) I was consistently among the worst performers on the fitness test, which was hard to accept for an overachiever. So, knowing this, I’m committed to pushing myself out of my comfort zone – and perhaps overachieving in whole new ways!

When I finally listened to my coworkers and joined in on the Transformation Challenge, I was actually surprised at how well I handled the initial fitness test, which consisted of most of the things I struggled to do in high school (sit-ups, push-ups, planks). I’ve come pretty far since then, and I can only imagine how far I can go in eight weeks.

My initial goal with fitness was weight loss, but I’m finding it has become a lot more for me than that: It’s about reaching goals, feeling good, feeling confident, and above all, it’s about strength. I’ve realized that upping my fitness game has all along been about proving to myself that I’m stronger than I think I am. And I’ve learned that statement applies to all areas of my life, whether it is my work or my somewhat disastrous love life. (Note to self: Yes, you ARE strong enough to keep searching for a nice guy, even if it means you have to first make it through some terrible Tinder matches.)

I’m only about halfway into the eight-week challenge, but I look forward to sharing my progress. I will say, I’m already adjusting to the feel of 10 lb. weights – those five pounders are starting to feel pretty light these days!

A final note to the reader (which is mostly my friends and family, let’s be honest): I know this blog has not been updated in quite some time, but I’ll be back to share more soon about a wide range of topics, including the much needed revival and revamping of my Single in the Suburbs blog. Stay tuned!

5 Life Lessons I Learned from Pure Barre

In late April, I had one of those moments many women dread. I was packing for a work conference in Orlando when I discovered a majority of my clothes from a few seasons ago no longer fit: zippers were much harder to close and sitting down could only happen if I held in my breath. I couldn’t believe that I’d managed to gain so much weight in such a short period of time. And all I could think was that I was unable to wear clothes I had only just finished paying off on my JCrew credit card….how sad (for my health and my finances)!

I was mad at myself for not noticing these changes in my own body. I knew all of my old excuses had to go – the biggest one being that I just didn’t have the time to work out.

Since I am terrible at motivating myself to get to the gym, I decided taking a class was the best way to go. Every night on my way home from work, I would pass a Pure Barre studio that had opened recently in my neighborhood. I’d always liked the idea of it since I had taken ballet as a kid, so I signed up in May 2014. Since that first class, I have gone to the studio at least five times a week (when not traveling for work). And on October 25th, I celebrated my 100th Pure Barre class, joining the studio’s 100 Club.


In this journey to finally get fit and take control of my physical health, Pure Barre has taught me five great lessons that I plan to take with me as I continue this new healthy lifestyle:

  1. You must take time for yourself.  Most of my adult life has been devoted to work, both my day job and the many projects I take on outside of the 9 to 5. I was going to networking events, volunteering, doing work for professional organizations, writing for online magazines and blogs – but I wasn’t giving any of my time to my physical health. I thought the networking activities were the way for me to truly grow and I made them a priority, until I realized I wasn’t really doing any of this extra work for myself. While it is important to nourish your mind and build your network, it doesn’t do any good when your body is run down from sleep deprivation and a terrible on-the-go diet.
  2. You can build new habits. I always thought I wasn’t the athletic or fit type, and that this was just who I was; why bother changing or apologizing for it? But a surprising thing happened — over the last five months, I discovered I really enjoy physical activity. It was just a matter of building it into my daily routine. Now I am at a point where I couldn’t see my life without it, and wonder how I managed in those years when my idea of stress relief was eating in front of the TV or drinking a beer.
  3. Progress is made in small increments. I could barely make it through all the Pure Barre exercises when I started, but with the encouragement of the instructors (who never make you feel too weak or too slow), I built my strength up one class at a time. Pure Barre is all about small, incremental movements, and it is amazing how these small movements can make big changes in your body and your mind. I also applied the idea of “small incremental changes” to my diet, and have slowly worked in healthier foods and have adjusted to eating smaller portions of my fattening favorites: French fries, mac and cheese, and craft beer.
  4. You are stronger than you think you are. The instructors always say this during class, right when you hit that point where you’re shaking so much you want to stop and take a break, or give up completely. We always think we aren’t capable in those moments when the pain or discomfort starts to kick in – but it is pushing through those moments that make you realize your body is capable, as long as your mind remains focused and positive.
  5. Breathe, focus, and tune out the world, because this is your time. Pure Barre is one hour in the day just for you. The instructors make you put away your cell phone and focus on the moves and music. It amazes me what I am capable of if I just let myself focus and breathe. Even when my legs are shaking (embrace the shake!), I can conquer that fear of not being strong enough by focusing on my breathing or the beat of the music. My ability to focus in class has helped me focus better in my everyday life, and I can now better tune out the unnecessary noise when I really want to finish a project.

Thanks to Pure Barre, I am in the best shape I’ve ever been in. At the moment, I don’t fit in to many of those old clothes, but not because they’re too tight – they’re too big! In fact, I had to buy a lot of new clothes recently, one to two sizes smaller.

Thanks to Pure Barre for pushing me in the right direction, and here’s to many more happy, healthy, active years!

Reviving the Blog & Re-commiting to my Side Projects

LitCity312_Logo_3C_LoResYes, it has been more than one year since I updated my personal website and written a actual blog post, and I am here to tell you I am still alive! And I am still pursuing my passion for storytelling in all of its various forms.

Where did I go? Well, I was fortunate to land a great corporate job working for a great person and a great company. I have been there just over one year, and in that time I have not forgotten about my side projects and interests. Yes, they have slowed down, but don’t worry, I’m not done with them yet!

In the past year, my independent press project has grown into a website: LitCity312, and we are now thinking of applying for nonprofit status. I’ve also joined the Chicago Women in Publishing board as the website editor, and I continue to be inspired by these women everyday! In fact, they are the reason I’ve become motivated to blog again.

Earlier this month, I had the chance to attend a great event with a few of my CWIP friends: Coach Jennie Mustafa-Julock’s Astonish Yourself Tour. Not only did I set goals to keep up with my many projects, but I was reminded that there are others like me: people who have these big ideas, who are never just doing the regular 9 to 5. And of course along with that comes the pressure of having seemingly too much work to complete, and the concern that family and friends might forget about you, as you lose your spare time in your various projects. I think we’ve all had friends ask us why we haven’t been around very often, why we always seem to be busy when everyone else is having fun on the weekends. But because our work is so solitary, they don’t always know that this extra stuff we do is because it is fun, because it’s part of our dream and passion…it just happens that this is an activity we often have to do alone, and some, like me, do it in addition to a full time job she also loves.

And so, with this post, I won’t be ashamed of my “side hustle” or “passion projects” anymore! And if working toward my goals means a little more solitary time, then so be it. I won’t be absent from my dreams anymore, or feel guilt for it!

Though it took me two weeks since the workshop to start this, it is a start — the baby steps are being taken! And I promise to be in touch now much more frequently, bringing you blog entries about various fun and sometimes random topics…and I’ll probably bring them to you at random times, because, just like I did during discussion days in my high school English class, I only like to speak when I really feel inspired and have something legitimate to add to the conversation. I may even bring back my Single in the Suburbs series! So stay tuned…

Pop-Up Book Fair Recap & An Anthology Update


A still from the video I shot at the Pop-Up Book Fair on Sunday, April 14th. My apologies for the somewhat poor quality — lighting was tricky.

On a particularly nice Sunday this rainy April, I had the chance to attend the Pop-Up Book Fair at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, local book publisher Curbside Splendor hosts this event with partners every few months or so, inviting other local book publishers to join in. The place is full of literary types (my people), table after table of locally-published lit, and there’s a bar — could there be a better combination?

I was able to connect with a lot of those who I had already interviewed for the Independent Press Anthology, and also met knew presses to add to our ever-growing project! As always, being around these individuals is inspiring, and not only from a writer’s perspective. These are true entrepreneurs pursuing their passion for good art and literature, and many of them are so dedicated that they continue to run their press as a second job, in their “spare time.” Every time I talk with a new press, I find more and more to admire about these individuals. And it is amazing how many more them are forming and growing every day.

Some of the presses I met for the first time, and am excited to learn more about, include: Criminal Class Press, Anobium, 7Vientos Press, Convulsive Editions and Burial Day Books.

Yes, it has officially been one year since I started doing all of these interviews. I can’t believe time has gone by so fast, but our project is still progressing — and growing even larger. I’m sure many of you have been wondering, “Whatever happened to that?” Here’s where we are now:

After a lot of careful thought, we’ve decided to create a local literary website, and possibly an ebook component that will be sold on the site. Since we have collected a number of video interviews, this would be the best way to share both the written and visual data we’ve collected. In addition to sharing the stories of independent presses, we will also share the stories of local independent booksellers and live lit series/events. This second portion of the project has not begun yet, but I hope to be headed out to interview and profile the individuals who help run these sometime this year. There will be many components to the site, including an event calendar for local literary events and possibly job postings. The plan is continuing to evolve — as is an official name! — but I will share these with you when I have them.

Until the website is up, I will continue to write and post updates here on my personal website. Stay tuned!

Video Premiere: Meet Gina Marotta, Your Chief Happiness Officer

At some point in all of our lives, we had jobs we didn’t love. Maybe it was working a concession stand in high school or waiting tables during college — it was okay, but not something we would want to do for the rest of our lives. But for some people, happiness and fun is missing from their current jobs, and they aren’t sure why.

My client, Gina Marotta, has a special talent: She helps both companies and individuals bring happiness, fun and passion back into the workplace. It is possible for all of us to enjoy what we do, and to wake up excited to go to work. And companies can help their employees feel that excitement and passion.

This video is an example of excellent teamwork. When we started, we knew what the message would be, but weren’t sure exactly how it would look. We brought in a third team member, Molly Rudberg-Leshnock of MRL Productions, and her new perspective brought in some freshness and focus. With Gina’s vision, Molly’s branding expertise, and my visual storytelling abilities, we created a video that reflects Gina’s message and passion.

Check out the video below, and visit Gina’s website! Also be sure to check out Molly at her website by clicking here. I feel so lucky to have met and worked with these inspiring women, and I’m sure you would enjoy working with them, too!

Who is Really in the Book Business?


Here are two customers who missed the memo — this is a still image from video I shot in June 2012, months after all Borders stores closed.

I wish I could say that I have many fond childhood memories of trips to the local independent bookstore. But the truth is that my dad used to take me to the local Barnes & Noble or Borders at least once a week in the summer, and I loved it. I’d spend hours browsing the aisles, trying to decide what to read next. Sometimes we’d go to both stores in one night. Back then I had no idea that these big chains were hurting local bookstores, nor did I understand that they were symbols of consumerism. Now that I’m an adult and a supporter of all things literary and independent, I get it — but I’m still saddened when I discover that both the Barnes & Noble and Borders I went to as a child have since closed.

Last week The Wall Street Journal reported that Barnes & Noble will be closing as many as a third of its stores in the next 10 years. The announcement once again had people talking: Is this the death of the book? Is this the end of the mainstream bookseller? The chief executive of Barnes & Noble’s retail group says it’s all part of the business evolving, and that the company will stick around.

As someone who is studying the independent publishing community, I have mixed feelings about this news from Barnes & Noble. I feel guilty for being a little sad about B&N’s need to downsize.

Just after this news broke last week, I watched an old favorite movie: You’ve Got Mail. (I spent the bulk of January at home sick, and I discovered that You’ve Got Mail plays several times a week on TV; it could not be avoided.) Watching the romantic comedy this year was more like a history lesson, a reminder of the ever-evolving publishing industry. Here is Kathleen Kelly, owner of the sweet, independent Shop Around the Corner, and Joe Fox, one of the owners of the big, bad, corporate Fox & Sons Books. Early on in the movie, the two are at a party, and Fox accurately guesses how much Kelly makes in sales each year. Kelly asks, “How did you know that?” and Fox replies “I’m in the book business.” Kelly looks taken aback and says, “I’m in the book business.”

Fast forward 14 years after the movie is released, and here we are. Today, it would likely be Fox’s store who is closing. Where would the picketers go with their signs and their chant of “One, two, three, four — We don’t want your superstore”? Perhaps outside of the Amazon headquarters? More likely they’d just write a lot of angry comments and blog posts online.

Maybe it’s karma. The big bookstores weren’t really in the book business, not like the independents. And so the “suits” like Joe Fox got what was coming to them. But still, part of me fears that this is a loss for all of us, and another win for online retailers. The enemy has simply changed from a physical one to a virtual one. And that enemy isn’t just around the corner — it’s a few clicks away!

As more of these stores disappear, my hope is that people turn back to the independents, back to the basics and the intimacy of a locally-owned shop. These small stores who survived the coming of mainstream retailers may be better equipped to handle the future, and unlike the stores we find in malls, they have a truly loyal customer base.

While I am working to share the stories of local independent publishers, my hope is to next share the stories of the booksellers. What are their next moves? How are they surviving? I hope to soon find out.

Crafting the Video Holiday Greeting

Let’s be honest — sending out individual greeting cards all on your own can be a hassle. I always run out of steam after card number five, and most of my cards end up going out a few days late. Luckily, there are a lot of great alternatives now to paper cards, but one option you can use instead of (or in addition to) paper cards is the video greeting.

If you’re looking for a creative way to reach family, friends, connections, clients and customers during the holiday, a video greeting can be a great option. All you have to do is post it to the web or email it out in a newsletter. And while it may not seem as personal, if you put a lot of yourself or your company into the video, you’ll be sure to get a few laughs or smiles. Good videos get attention — and it will keep your audience talking. Think of it as an opportunity to tell the story of your past year, or share what is coming in the new year.

So what kinds of video greetings can you create? Here’s a few suggestions and examples:

Family Holiday Greeting — You can send out your own family greeting on video. You can either do a slideshow of still images, or actually shoot a holiday-themed video, complete with script. I found this great example from a company called Moving Portraits in San Francisco: You can easily find a local company that does this.

Personal Holiday Greeting — A lot of individuals building a personal brand or blog like to send these out, but you can also send one out for fun. Again, you can use stills or shoot a video yourself. Let people know what you’ve been up to, and thank them for being a friend, customer, reader, etc.

Small Business/Non-Profit/Corporate Greeting — For businesses and organizations, you can use video greetings in a few ways:

  • To say happy holidays to your employees or customers
  • To say thank you to customers you’ve worked with
  • To greet potential new customers, and boost those end-of-year sales numbers
  • To ask for an end-of-year donation, if you’re a non-profit
  • To give your employees/coworkers a laugh at the holiday party

For the video, you can get as technical or involved as you want — you use still images collected throughout the year, or shoot a video with your whole office. Here’s a few things you can try in a video:

  • Sing a song
  • Write a brief sketch
  • Give a communal greeting from the lobby
  • Have individuals speak their message or give their appeal

And finally, here are a few real life examples. These are a few good holiday greetings from businesses and a nonprofit:

You have a lot of great options when it comes to creating a holiday video, and if you’re trying to do it yourself, finding templates or images online is fairly easy. You can create simple slideshows without doing a whole video shoot. Here’s one option:

If you do want to shoot a video and don’t have the proper equipment, look for small production companies or freelance videographers in your area. I shot a corporate holiday greeting last year, and am hoping to take on new clients this holiday season — particularly nonprofits and small businesses/entrepreneurs. If you’re interested in shooting a video and are in the Chicago area, send me an e-mail, and I can send you some samples of my work. Feel free to ask me any questions you might have about holiday video greetings.

Happy Holidays!

Single in the Suburbs: Must Love Books

It has been awhile since I last updated my Single in the Suburbs series, but I assure you it’s because I’ve been busy networking, meeting new friends, and attending plenty of singles events and mixers. And I’ve learned one thing during this time: the next guy I date must love books.

A couple of months ago, I was set up on a blind date. I figured I might as well give it a shot. Besides, what else would I be doing? Likely sitting at home and watching a marathon of Say Yes to the Dress. So, I put on one of my best date outfits and headed to the city.

Within the first hour of the date, my love for writing and books had come up as a topic of conversation. My date’s response was, admittedly, disappointing: “I haven’t read a book since college,” he said.

Having just completed a graduate degree in writing, the idea of not having read a single book in four to six years was completely foreign to me. How would one spend their free time, how would one pass the hours on a airplane, on a train? In that moment, I realized my date and I likely had little to nothing in common. My life seems to revolve around and be consumed with stories, and here was a man who didn’t really make time for it. Sure, he probably watched movies and received stories in other ways, but clearly the passion for it just wasn’t there. How would he understand how I chose to spend my time?

I’ve learned since then to look for men who not only appreciate literary culture, but who have stories of their own. At a speed dating event, I was talking with a man who, once he heard I was a writer, asked, “So do you tend to like men who have a good story?”

After taking a moment to think, I admitted that actually yes, I like a man with a good story behind him. In fact, the story might be what first attracts me to someone. I’ve developed crushes on men simply from reading their writing, reading their stories.

But let’s be clear on one thing: I’m not talking about the kinds of stories some men tell me — the time he got super drunk, got super high on a drug, got caught in the middle of a knife fight or spent the night in jail. I’m talking about the stories that require taking real risks that matter, stories that show some vulnerability and are worthy of admiration: starting his own company, writing his first book, changing careers. What is his story — or does he just go to work from nine to five and go home to the TV and a beer?

My love for good stories consumes more of my life than I realized. It isn’t just in my work and my hobbies — it’s what I look for in relationships. It may seem like strange or harsh criteria, but it could be the key to me finding someone with whom I’m truly compatible. What can I say? I love a good man with a good story.

What a Storyteller is Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I hope all of you are relaxing and enjoying this time with family and friends. If you’re like me and working in a little personal writing and editing projects today, enjoy! For some reason, ever since I was a kid, I found holidays a great time to sneak in a little writing or reading that I’ve been wanting to do but haven’t yet. So if you’re sneaking off after all that food to read or write a little, I’m with you!

I’ve had a lot to be thankful for this past year — all the new, fantastic and passion-filled projects I’ve had a chance to work on; all the great organizations, clubs and small businesses I’ve engaged with; all the new friends and connections I’ve met — but I want to turn my focus today on what a storyteller is thankful for (or for what a storyteller is thankful, but seriously, no one would say that in daily speech). As writers, filmmakers and editors, it’s important to take time and recognize the people and groups who help our projects come to life. The following list is from my perspective, but I hope my fellow writers and storytellers will agree on some of these:

  • Our God-given talent and passion. Obviously, we wouldn’t be who we are without our love for stories and our ability to communicate them to our audience. This is something nobody can take away from us, unless we get in our own way. Remember that!
  • Mentors. I am certainly thankful for my family, friends, bosses and professors who encouraged me along the way, and who, to this day, continue to support my endeavors.
  • Our community and peers (including all writing programs). Our community of writers and storytellers is vital to our success, whether we found them on our own or through formal writing programs. Regardless of which types of stories we tell, we all understand each other and what it’s like to hit a rough patch. We are also the first to support each other — the Chicago writing scene is proof of that. I am certainly thankful for the writing community that has sprung up in Chicago and which hosts many great events to support local writers.
  • Independent presses and other independent groups. Independent, small businesses are a great home for us. Gone are the days when you could only see success with a big, corporate entity. Small and independent is the way to go, and it will help ensure your project is seen and heard in a way that makes you proud.
  • Our critics. Yeah, they suck and they make us angry, but we wouldn’t be where we are without our critics. Maybe we learned a valuable lesson from them, or maybe they are just excellent motivators. If all people did was praise us, would we keep going? Or would we just get bored and have nothing to say?
  • People who have ridiculously loud public conversations or act ridiculous in public. Seriously, you get so many great ideas from these people! You can form a whole character based on something you heard on the street — or you end up with a great idea for a documentary.
  • The Legends. Let’s not forget the ones who came before us and who continue to inspire to us. They are likely the people whose work you go to when you need a lift, and they are probably the ones who wrote the book of advice you’ve come to rely on. (Anyone else a huge fan of Bird by Bird?)
  • Our subjects and our audience. Nonfiction storytellers are always grateful for those who took the time to share their stories with us, so that we might share them with others. And of course, don’t forget the people who listen to all of our stories — they are the ones who keep us going, and who we also hope to help in some way.

So, storytellers, what did I miss? I hope you all enjoy your holiday, and that it leaves you with many stories to tell!