An EYE OPENING Update… (cheesy title)


Well…. Hi there, blog-o-sphere!

It’s nearly been a solid 6 months since I wrote something here…. Oops… A LOT has been happening… In a way, I guess I’ve been a little too busy living life to write about it… But today I have some significant news to share, and I want to be able to share it quickly and clearly with all of my friends and family; all of the people I love—both near and far who read this.

Before I launch into that, here’s your mini-update for the last 6 months:

  1. Moved again; this time only about ½ mile, and its lovely to not be alone anymore, although bless the person adapting to my OCD-ness in regard to home organization!🙂
  2. Started a new job, as a THERAPIST, and am LOVING it!
  3. I work in a public housing development, but seriously, nicest one I’ve ever seen/ been in.
  4. Still singing with a group I love.
  5. Still an irregular jogger who misses her Pilates…
  6. Still adjusting to a slower pace of life than I lived in NOLA, but I love my “new normal” and the awesome things that have happened in the last year that God clearly planned and I could have never imagined. Grateful.🙂
  7. Cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the first time ever with 3 of my favorite people AND it was all edible- in fact, raved about!
  8. Staying in Chicago for Christmas; going to NOLA for Mardi Gras with the boyfriend & his kiddo, and can’t wait!

Ok… Now that I have that out of the way….

I hope this post doesn’t violate my own “rules”- but I don’t see this as depressing or spreading negativity. It’s just informing & explaining…. All sorts of folks read this- family, friends, and some people that barely know me. Some have known me for years, others for only weeks or months…Some are near and some are far… But I love all of you, and appreciate the love and support I get/ have gotten from you all!

I *think* most of you know I only see out of 1 eye, and I wear a partial fake eye (called a “scleral shell”…. Basically a big, hard, fancy & expensive contact). I have never had 2-eyed vision, but I did not wear a fake eye until I was 13, and I didn’t “all the way” lose my “bad eye” until 2004, when I was a senior in college.

To date, I have had 53 surgeries… and the news of the day is, on January 6th, I’m gonna have #54.

For the past year, I’ve been having some annoying problems with the fake eye…. Nothing painful or earth shattering; just stuff that is annoying, frustrating, and sometimes uncomfortable for me AND stuff that makes it a bit more obvious that “one of these eyes is not like the other”. I had a small, easy surgery in July to more fully open my tear duct which REALLY helped with some of these problems during the day time. However, it’s not a solution. On top of that, over the past year my implant has started to expose itself (sounds racy, right? Hahaha!) and I’ve had more infections than usual.  So, it’s time to do something.

I’ve been waiting on good ‘ol ObamaCare to kick in; as you can imagine, insurance companies don’t exactly run towards clients who have had 50+ surgeries… So that kicks in on January 1st, and I have the first open surgery slot in my doctor’s schedule after that date.

So, what’s happening?

Well, the original implant… yeah, the one being all immodest now (Haha!)… needs to be traded in. We gotta replace it. I had no idea when it initially got put in (it was kind of an emergency type situation) that it would ever need replacing, but as it turns out, this thing has run like a Honda and waaayy out-lived itself… I’ve had it for nearly 10 years.

It will be replaced with a slightly different product… the doctor will decide during the surgery between 2 products. One would last about 10 years, and another (my own tissue) could possibly never need replacing. We trust his decision once he’s in there…

I have known since the summer that this would have to be done sometime in the next two years, and I knew action had to be taken concerning the present problems soon.  Our best guess is 2-3 surgical procedures in the next 12-24 months. So, the question became about SEQUENCING of surgical procedures, what I was willing to compromise on, what I wasn’t, and if I wanted to band-aid the problem or go directly to the source. I went through 6 different eye doctors before finding the one WE ABSOLUTELY LOVE here (thanks, Pauli!), and I still “circle the wagons” with my most trusted people and doctors… most of all, my Dr. D, whom I continue to be so grateful for! I feel good about the decision I came to after lots of careful thought and consideration by many folks.

The old implant is the source of the present problems. The replacing of it is the biggest procedure I need. I have decided to “replace the pipe” rather than tape it up and see how long it gets me. I don’t like surprises, and I don’t like temporary fixes. We will do this, see how everything settles, and then re-evaluate and see what (if anything) needs to be done. Most likely, we are only anticipating a minor lower eyelid surgery after this (which I do every few years… no biggie) and then our goal is no eye drama for a few years.

So, what’s the big deal?

Well, in one way, nothing really… I’m me, the girl with 50+ surgeries, and this is just another one. I got this!🙂

On the other hand, this one is a little different than my usual, super easy surgeries to fix droopy eyelids… I do NOT have particularly pleasant memories about when I first got the implant in 2004 (not fun, not comfortable), AND I have to spend the night in the hospital… which I hate and probably haven’t done in like 15 years. It’s new. I haven’t had this particular surgery before, and I’m in a different place… that makes me a little scared sometimes. Because the surgery basically re-makes the shape of the socket, I will need to get a new scleral shell (fake eye) made after- the old one will no longer work.

…You can’t make one of these things immediately after. To insure a good fit, you gotta let everything heal and allow the swelling to go down. So, depending on how quickly my body goes back to normal, I will be “eye-less” for 4-6 weeks after. That means out of public courtesy, I will be wearing sunglasses or a patch when out in public, at work, etc…

So, that brings up the issue of me being 100% “eye-outed” in Chicago… While EVERYONE from my childhood and time in NOLA know the intricacies of my eye saga throughout my life, many people in my Chicago circle do not.  Keeping this under wraps will not be an option, and this is a major reason why I decided to write this post. I have NO problem talking with folks about it, but I figured a mass-telling would be an easier place to start from.

I will also miss a week of work, but my new job and colleagues have been AWESOME and so supportive and “no big deal” about it. That was a  HUGE relief!

My krewe in NOLA (family & friends) always did such an awesome job of playing cheerleader and encourager for me, and helping me to keep my head up and my sense of humor going…. I have no doubt about the same thing happening here in Chicago, I feel like I have great support around me here, but it’s just different.  Different can be good; and all the circumstances around this surgery are COMPLETELY different than the situation in 2004.

I am feeling the love from my NOLA krewe  and from my new peeps here in Chicago.  To the very few of you that have known this for a few days, THANK YOU… I needed a little digestion time for it to fully sink in, and the ugly cry may have escaped once or twice! I also wanna thank you for waiting to share this until I felt ready. … You may all speak freely now… Hahaha!😉

HOWEVER… Some things are constant.

I am still very, very much looking forward to my NOLA trip for Mardi Gras, and I should be all put together again by the time I arrive there….

…and I am very excited for my 3rd EVER EYE SMASHING PARTY when this is over & the new eye gets debuted!

(For those of you who have never attended or heard about, get excited… it’s super fun and silly and not nearly as gruesome as it sounds)

Eye Smashing for my 31st Birthday? Or a pre-mardi gras party if I’m lucky?!? …I’m excited!


So, that’s the update…. The big day is January 6th….

I appreciate your thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes. Thanks for always being an awesome and supportive part of my life, near and far!

So, Cheers to all that, best wishes for a very blessed Christmas/ Holiday season, and…

to An (Eye) Smashing New Year!



My 1 Year Chicago-versary


What I Didn’t Even Know to Expect a Year Ago…

7:07am, Saturday morning, in a tent, somewhere in Wisconsin

7-year old voice: “Um, Tara, I thought you took your fake eye out when you slept…”

Me: (coming awake quickly) “Um, yeah buddy, I usually do, but I don’t right now because I have that tube in which makes it hard, and we’re in a tent… so, ya know, storage is an issue.

7-year old voice: “Oh, ok. (pause, gains excitement) Ok, noooowww, let’s go to the lake!!”

July 22, 2012

I packed the last few items into my car, after a teary & sparkling wine filled goodbye the night before with my nearest & dearest friends,  gave a hug to Ms. Pat & Dreux, and drove out of New Orleans to begin a new chapter in a new city.  Admittedly, there were tears until I reached the state line… But since I hit that state line, despite many unexpected and new things (some good, some not so good), I have had no regrets and no tears about the decision to move.

It’s been A YEAR, y’all!

…And it’s been completely insane.

July 22 has been a big day for me for a while… if we really want to talk about insane, how about the fact that in a completely alternate universe,  this would have been like my 7th wedding anniversary… Geez, life IS crazy!!

In a way, I feel like I’ve been here forever and Chicago really feels like “home”, and in other ways I feel like I just arrived and I still catch myself saying, “Oh, I just moved here recently”.  I guess I need to start letting that go now, right?  I have a lot of thoughts & feelings on my “Chicago-versary”, and we all know I write uber-long blog posts anyway, so I thought I’d list some of the “biggies” in the last year before letting myself go wild with a narrative.

 25 Biggies of the Year:

  1. I’ve lived in 3 places: Lakeview, Lincoln Park, & Beverly… and soon to move again… Geez, I will be sooo excited to stay in one place for at least a year! I’m a moving expert at this point!
  2. I’ve had 3 temp jobs- a first for me!
  3. I finished my master’s degree!
  4. I got my LPC (counselor license).
  5. I got my first post-master’s job after a LONG job hunt.
  6. I made the (very, very) difficult decision to leave that job, without having another one lined up.
  7. I’ve spent 4 months unemployed- a HUGE challenge for me after being so used to having 4 jobs & being very self-sufficient. Still working on being ok with not having a 60-hour workweek schedule. Patience is still NOT my virtue; cooking helps.
  8. I got rid of my beloved Accord & got a more budget-friendly vehicle.
  9. I drove in snow for the first time; shoveled & brushed snow off my car for the first time.
  10. I went to my first Cubs game.
  11.  Sang in two new choirs, one of which has given me some awesome friendships.
  12. I saw the leaves change colors.
  13. I’ve made a bunch of new friends.
  14. I’ve gone camping (which, as a rule, I don’t do) 3 times now!
  15. I’ve gotten lost in/ enjoyed exploring a new city & new things.
  16. I’ve found a church that I actually find uplifting & a great bunch of people to be in community with there.
  17. I discovered my fears about “losing” my friends back home were unfounded- things are different, but I still have “my krewe”.
  18. I dropped 2 sizes and lost a little bit of weight.
  19. Had my first Chicago surgery.
  20. I’ve learned about police life/ culture.
  21. I’ve done laundry in a (gasp) basement.
  22. I discovered bars do close & a to-go cup is NOT ok outside of New Orleans.
  23. Had visitors from out of town & was an “out of towner” at Mardi Gras for the first time.
  24. Got to be one of those people who legit “went home” for the holidays.
  25. I found the courage to do things I swore I wasn’t gonna do again- like being in a ‘real’ relationship. As indicated my by initial quote at the start of this, I spent the weekend with two of my favorite guys- one of whom I am absolutely crazy about, immensely thankful for, & couldn’t imagine this year without  and the other who is just as funny and charming and silly as his daddy.

A few weeks ago, my mom said to me on the phone, “Who is this person that is my daughter? It’s really good, but you are definitely a different person than you were a year ago.” And while I NEVER like to admit that my mom is right about ANYTHING, I have to say, she IS right. I am different. I’m still me, and I wouldn’t want it any other way, but in the last year I have been challenged to grow & expand myself in new ways. I began this blog a little over a year ago, as I found myself at a personal & professional crossroads, and as I began contemplating some changes. It was a difficult process. However, my decision to move to Chicago gave me a “re-start” that I really needed & one that has been really good for me.  I miss my friends and my community back home- but I have no regrets.

This year has been HARD- perhaps one of my hardest. I have filled out literally HUNDREDS of job applications- which has totally blown my mind, seeing as prior to moving here I had NEVER even applied for a job… every job I had ever had was just offered to me. It is hard for me to accept (the incredibly generous) help my family has given me while I search for a job. I have had to swallow my pride and work my gratitude practice HARD, which is easier some days than others. I have learned to accept support & love, particularly from two very awesome people here in Chicago as I navigate this “in-between time” for myself professionally. I hope, hope, hope that this “season” ends quickly for me, but I am trying to handle it with as much grace as I can muster.

I have found joy and confidence in my music making again, but also have found how much I really, really, really miss conducting and “my kids”. While I always said teaching was not my “forever gig”, I miss my students sooo much, and am so flattered by how many of them stay in touch. Like a proud momma, I just am so proud at all the amazing things they are doing! I hope at some point to find some group to conduct here… but baby steps.

In New Orleans, I couldn’t go anywhere without running into people I knew… the grocery, the movies, a bar, a restaurant, even the airport. I didn’t realize how small New Orleans was until I landed in a much bigger city. At first, it was kinda nice and freeing… but there are days when I miss running into an old friend or student or client or classmate in the store.  The lady at the Jamaican restaurant knows me now, so that’s a start, I guess… Hahaha!

Right now, I could write for pages and pages about the beautiful things, the hard things, the new things, but really, that could get quite long, and quite boring for you…

So, I’ll just sum it up by saying this:

A year ago today, I hopped in my car and drove excitedly towards a new beginning.

I had no idea what to expect.

I have found incredible happiness and incredible challenges in the last year.

My life is far from perfect, but totally beautiful and blessed at the same time.

I am so glad I took the risk and did something that seemed completely crazy.

I am full of gratitude.

I think it was perhaps one of the best decisions I have ever made, even if it was rather out of character for me.

When I was struggling over the decision to move about a year ago, a mentor and friend of mine said to me, “I know you’re scared to do it, but you know it’s what you have to do.  If you’re honest with yourself, you know you’ve already decided. Look at your last year- it’s not what you planned. But even if you could have planned it, this is even better than what you would have planned, right? Just trust and go with it.”

She was right then, and she’s right now.

…Perhaps one day I’ll be less of a control freak…

But it’s not likely.

Thanks for having me, Chicago. It’s good to be here.

Here’s to year 2…




This morning, the feeling I woke up to in my bedroom 100% assured me that winter has breathed its last on Chicago for this season…. My room was warm and humid, the air was still- despite the windows being open….and as my students would have said, “I was sparkling”.
It was hot.
See, here in Chicago central A/C isn’t the norm in apartments… I’ll be making my window A/C unit purchases shortly, another one of those “welcome to Chicago” rites of passage. The good news is, here you only need it for about 3 months… I walked for 5 miles this afternoon- outside, it’s absolutely heavenly right now.
But as I woke up, and noticed the feeling around me, I was transported a few thousand miles away and a few decades back in time.
The feeling in my bedroom was the EXACT feeling I had felt so many times before- visiting my Grandfather Stanchel (and a host of other relatives that lived in that area).
Lower Valley, Grand Cayman, somewhere in the 1980s-1990s.
I can remember whining as a child, “Do we HAVE to go visit them?!? It’s HOT there. It’s SOOOO hot. And it’s BOOOORING.” The compromise was always: “After dinner, it’s cooler. And yes, it’s important. It’s our family. They love you, and we love them.”
From my perspective now, I don’t remember the heat or the boredom. I smiled as I reminisced this morning… Remembering Grandfather Stanchel showing us his water trucks, his cows, eating his super-burnt hamburger patties, walking the grounds. I remember sitting on porches watching fans oscillate while the grown-ups spun their best stories from the past. I remember my parents proudly introducing us kids to older relatives, and relatives saying to me, “Come, let me smell that sweet head”, as they did to all children.
I picked up my phone and sent my dad a text, “OMG… It’s so hot in my apartment. I think I’m in Lower Valley. If I hear Grandfather Stanchel’s cow call, I’m gonna really be scared.”
His reply, “I was thinking of Lower Valley this morning, too… Got to work and found the A/C was broken at the office.”
Despite the fact that I don’t have kids, as I get older I find myself thinking more about my roots- and where those roots have taken me. (Or not taken me?)
My roots are in New Orleans and the Cayman Islands… Where do I go? Chicago.
I was raised primarily in the Catholic Church, but what do I do now? Go to a different Christian church.
Sunday dinner was almost always roast beef. …And I don’t eat beef.
I was raised in a “get married, live happily ever after” family. …And I’m divorced, and have been for 4 years.
But I also am beginning to see how those “roots”- those memories and traditions and places and even foods- are reflected in the “buds” of my present life…. And what elements of them I want to pass on…. To whoever… My friends in Chicago tease me that I put more into Mardi Gras preparation than most people put into a major concert. I know a good gumbo is the best thing on a cold day, and chilled, boiled shrimp are just about the best thing on a hot day. I sit in church and hear a scripture quote or a song that was one of my Gram’s favorites, and my heart nearly bursts. Or, I notice my church is celebrating the same feast the Catholics would be celebrating that weekend, and I feel happy (and slightly less guilty) that it seems to be coming full circle.
I couldn’t be more excited about a legit crawfish boil in Chicago this weekend. My friend is bringing his son along, and (since I’ve been talking about it for a month) we are ALL excited. I even drew a crawfish on a napkin at church a few weeks ago, all for the sake of demonstration and education! Haha! I still remember my first crawfish boil (well, probably not my first, but the one we had recorded on BETA tape where my brother was screaming in terror that the crawfish would eat me)… I remember my 5-year old bad-ass safari outfit I was wearing for the occasion, on that driveway on Michigan Ave. in Metairie.
Naturally, I have a whole slew of “essential” first crawfish experiences to make sure I create this Saturday- peeling, sucking the head, using the head as a finger puppet, taking two live ones and doing a “crawfish race” on the sidewalk. My friend’s son has had a million questions and is very much looking forward to it as well. I (of course) had to get him the crawfish shirt on sale at Storyville… because he will need to remember his outfit from his first crawfish boil, too, duh!
…And the sad thing is… I know in the end, in the moment, he’ll probably feel a lot like I did in Lower Valley… “It’s hot. I’m bored” and perhaps, “Ew, these are SPICY!”
But maybe, just maybe, down the line, he’ll remember it with retrospective fondness…
Just like branches and buds on plants do, perhaps moving away from my roots is ok… It’s just that the roots are what keep you grounded as you move and grow, and find your own way. Those memories, traditions, and values shape the journey. I’m planting new seeds, putting down new roots, but also still enjoying the rich fruits of those roots planted in me long ago.

The Best Exotic… Wild and Precious Life


What up, bloggy friends?

It’s been a wild (and largely fantastic) month or so… I’m almost a month into my new job, where I still feel very new and green, and am challenged in new ways every day; ALWAYS leaving with a hilarious story or “rainbow-ism” of the day…. Greatest hits so far:

  1. Being referred to as “ hey, white lady” and “girl Tim” because I’m one of 2 white women that work here and I replaced a guy named Tim.
  2. Hearing about “updations”.
  3. Chatting with my boss when he wants to “touch some bases” (his version of ‘let’s touch base’).
  4. “Girl, you gotta stop being so ‘perfectionary’!” …they have realized my love of perfection already.

Between work, choir, a small group, and a few other things I’m involved in, plus an AMAZING (but way too quick) trip home for Mardi Gras, there hasn’t been much time for writing. However, I realized I was quite the hypocrite tonight when I was checking my favorite blogs and was totally annoyed when I had nothing new to read… and then thought, “when was the last time YOU posted, Tara?”

So, here I am.🙂

While a bit overdramatic, the famous line, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” comes to mind when I try to sum up the last few weeks. As I said… a bit over the top, but it certainly captures my present joy and happiness as well as stress and anxiety.

I guess in my over-logical brain, I figured once I had a job, most of my stress and worry would disappear…. But we all logically know that’s just not how life works. In adjusting to my new work life and a new budget, I’ve made some changes… Like trading in my beloved Accord, named “DC” after my true love, Diet Coke for a more city and budget friendly car. (Who would have thought a NEW car would save you money? And, I got a Jetta… NOT suffering, for sure) …Like starting to apartment hunt 3 months before my lease expires… because I want to be closer to work and less house poor. Lincoln Park, I love ya, but you’re a little fancy for this budget!

Admittedly, I’m not usually that “budget-y”… I let my financial planner father and accountant brother do those things… But once you start making cuts and figuring out where the “fat” is in your spending, it’s kinda fun and exciting! Like, with not too much effort I created $450! Awesome sauce! I also found it hilarious that the day I did this my horoscope literally read, “Penny pinching isn’t an Olympic sport yet, but you’re training for it  like it is.”

Funny, right? I don’t really believe it, but I do read it every day and I act like I believe it when it says something I like… Hahaha!

Every other aspect of life is going pretty well- I am totally loving the choir I am singing in and am excited about my first concert with this ensemble on March 2… I’m a little nervous about but also stoked about having a cool solo- I just don’t wanna screw it up for my friend who trusted me with it or for my ensemble!

For the last month or so, I joined a small group with a friend of mine and some of his friends from a mission trip they served on together. While at first I was hesitant and not sure how I would like it, if they would like me, having a commitment right after work 2 days in a row (rehearsal and then this group), I have to say I’ve really enjoyed it… It’s been really low-key, and it’s been great to build relationships and friendships with more cool, like-minded people. It’s good to have that “space” in the week carved out to think/discuss spiritual things and connect with others in that way.

It’s a season of life where it’s equally easy when I wake up and when I go to sleep to utter my gratitude practice mantra, “I thank you God, for most this amazing day!” and to have a sheer panic at some point in the day about not knowing what I should do next or stressing about “the budget working”.  It’s a strange (but pretty wonderful) land of extremes… (Cue Billy Joel’s “I Go To Extremes”)

I didn’t see my parents while I was in town for Mardi Gras, as they were on a fantastic vacation experiencing Carnivale in Rio…they were out for a few weeks, so needless to say we ALL had lots to catch up on after they returned at the end of this week.  I had barely had my first day at my new job when they departed!

Contrary to the fact that most people find me to be fairly perfectionistic and compulsive, I am the artsy, flighty one of my family… While I wanted my dad’s advice, I was also a little hesitant to have a “budget conversation” with him. So, I did my usual “send an e-mail” cop-out… I pressed send, held my breath, and kinda waited for the “Suze Orman fire breathing financial dragon” to descend upon me.

(Disclaimer: that is due to my own insanity, not my dad’s past behavior.)

The e-mail I got back was so chill: “Don’t panic. It will be fine. Let’s talk. Love, Dad”

We had about an hour and a half conversation tonight; going through the budget with a fine-toothed comb, talking about his trip, talking about my new job… It was good stuff. It was re-assuring. It reminded me of just how lucky I am to have my dad (and my parents, in general).

I love how my Dad is nothing but rational and practical and logical 99% of the time, and then with the very same level of seriousness and conviction, he throws in something I know to be ridiculous, like, “You should just win American Idol” or “I really think the answer is that you need an agent… you can double your income with your writing”. What, Dad?

But I truly, truly love that about him. I used to die of embarrassment during my teenage years when I knew I was quite a “middle of the road” singer, and he referred to me as “the superstar”. Haha!

About an hour after our conversation, after I checked those blogs that were devoid of new entries, I checked my e-mail… and there was a note from my Dad… another awesome message, with no punctuation (which he refuses to use in e-mail), 99% practical, and then this, referring to a movie we watched together as a family when I was home for Christmas:

“don’t worry-as they say in the best exotic marigold hotel-‘ it will always work out in the end and if it hasn’t worked out yet then it isn’t the end yet.’ love, dad”

True story, Dad.

I got almost-teary, and thought it was a pretty good reminder that while things are ALMOST settled here, I’m still settling in… Granted, it’s perhaps the LONGEST EVER settling in process in history, but the plan is always changing and evolving and growing… and it just keeps getting better- Truly. But change is challenging, and change is constant. I am mid-journey…It is NOT the end. But every step along the way is just part of the whole picture… and that’s the adventure of this one wild and precious life.

I love it.

To steal another favorite quote, “What will you do with this one wild and precious life?”

My plan is still evolving….But it’s pretty magical.


With Thanks.


Well, I’m just about a week shy of “6 months in Chicago”…. And I am so, so, happy to say that before I reach that landmark, I have the ability to say, “Yeah, I’m employed!”

Before I began writing this post tonight, I quickly scrolled though all of my previous posts to make sure I hadn’t already used the title that “felt right” for my thoughts today. I came across THIS POST from August 9… literally when I had been in Chicago for about 2.5 weeks… at that point, I was already COMPLETELY frustrated and exasperated by my job hunt, and honestly a little insulted that I had hadn’t been offered a great job yet.

A little narcissism? Perhaps. Probably mostly just naivety, having never had applied for a job before. Either way, I “worst case scenario” expected 6-8 weeks of job hunting. Nearly 6 months? Completely unimaginable.

I am thankful I have the ability to laugh at (I mean, of course, WITH) myself in hindsight.

While I do NOT wish to have the journey of these last 6 months again ANYTIME soon (preferably, not EVER AGAIN), I have learned and grown tremendously during this time. My life is now completely different than it was 6 months ago, when I was enjoying the beach on the Gulf Coast with my dearest friends, contemplating “a little change”.

This “non-crier” has cried and sobbed more times than she cares to count or admit to. …and more importantly, I’ve learned that sometimes, that’s ok… and even can be good and/or “normal”.

This “Brene Brown evangelist” has learned experientially about facing the “not good enoughs” and has been challenged to be authentic and vulnerable, practice what she preaches, stay true to herself, her ideals, and her vision… Even when that means I kinda wanna crap my pants, take all that idealism back, or just hide in my blankies for days. (Still a work in progress, clearly)

This girl who is really hesitant to “really” let people into her world has done just that, particularly with 3 amazing people in my Chicago world who were gonna be there whether I welcomed them in or not, because that’s just what “real friends” do… and they made sure this girl got that message, loud and clear… via text, phone call, voicemails when I wouldn’t answer, visits, lunch, coffee, cocktails, job leads, new friends/ networking, good advice, local scoop,  a card thrown under the door, or something I could help them with (because I’m much better at helping other people). I never “name drop” on my blog, for many reasons- including: forgetting amazing people, hurting people’s feelings, not respecting people’s privacy, etc, etc… But, I’m gonna go ahead and violate my own rule for once. There have been a million awesome people- friends from New Orleans, new friends in Chicago, and dear friends who live all over the U.S. and the world that have been super encouraging, loving, kind, and supportive, especially over the last 6 months- and I thank you ALL…. But Tim, Jodee, and Pauli- I love y’all, and thank you sooo soooo sooooo much. I am so very lucky to have you in “my circle” in my new city.🙂

This girl, who for years taught and preached to her students about living a life that mattered and following your gut and your heart, and doing things you believe in, living with passion, and being true to yourself was seriously challenged! On more than one occasion I thought, “Man, this SUCKS following my own advice!” But if there is one thing I hate, it’s a hypocrite- so I’ve done it.  I don’t expect that most of my students listen… but I’ll say this: Kiddos- it’s hard as F*!K! and it’s scary and uncomfortable. …and I’m not done, so I’m not sure yet… but I think it’ll be worth it. But it’s not for the faint of heart. However, I hold out hope that doing something that means something (if even only to me) is worth it. Despite moments of CRAZY doubt, I am THANKFUL I turned down the positions I did. I’m thankful for the applications I didn’t even fill out, because I knew it wasn’t a fit for who I am. And again, I’m thankful for those people who helped me remember those things in moments where it would have been way easier to “sell out”. It’s hard to keep a long-term vision when you’re in a short-term crisis…

On that note, I am so thankful to Nora, my friend’s sister, who got me some temp work with her company, which very well may have saved my sanity and certainly eased some of the pressure on my bank account while I kept looking for something that was the “right fit”. I never realized how much of my identity was wrapped up in going to work until suddenly the girl with 5 jobs had none. The task did not matter- while it may not have been my life’s grandest ambition, I was SO HAPPY to have work to go to. Thanks so, so much!

I am thankful for music, which yet again, swooped in to feed my soul in a rough time. Finding places where I could sing and where my “inner music nerd” could nerd-out with other like-minded folks was incredible. Choral music feels like home to me. It’s a language I always understand and place that lets me breathe and be myself. Paul French, OLMC, William Ferris Chorale, Paul Caldwell, and Windy City- a debt of gratitude.

My love of music led me to my undergraduate studies in music therapy, and from my music therapy days and connections made there, I made a friend and found a professional colleague that helped me find this job. Lesson for the kiddos: Never burn any bridges, make and build professional contacts, and network, network, network. I’m thankful for old friends, Kim and Sarah, who introduced us, and thankful for new friends and new working relationships… and for someone (Erin) willing to go on the good word of others and resume to help a sister out.🙂

I am thankful for my family and friends back home, who showed their support in so many ways during this very rough period. I am thankful for my former professors (shout out to Dr. M) and my classmates from grad school who really helped me to make connections here in Chicago and helped to make me feel welcome.

Although it sounds cheesy, I am thankful for my faith and for church- which can be incredibly sustaining in trying times. I am glad it seems that my “Saturday” is over for now… but I am glad to know that whether I am in a “Saturday” or not, I will be loved and sustained.

I am thankful that since Monday night, I’ve slept without a problem and the nightmare of trying to use my debit card and there being no money in my account has stopped happening.

I am thankful that on Monday afternoon, when I walked out of an interview, having accepted a decent job offer that I felt good about, I sat in my car in a parking lot and shed a tear or two out of joy, happiness, validation, and extreme relief… Before I could even call anyone.

I have a job.

…and to the person that told me “if you don’t have a job before the holidays, just count yourself out until March”, I would just like to say, “DUDE, IT WAS JANUARY 14th!”

Hahahahaha! Kidding; kidding! (sort of)

I may suck at this job. I may be completely terrible at it- I’ve never done it before. But, I’ve done (and found success at) jobs I’ve never done before already… I am excited about the new challenge. I know there will be tough days as I learn policies and programs and how things are done; as a staff adjusts to me and I to them. I have a new schedule to figure out and adapt to… and my alarm will go off at 7:30am… Yikes!

But all that stuff is my NEW challenge.; my new adventure; my new mountain.

And I feel ready for it.

I should start my new job in a week or two, just about 6 months behind the “Tara’s perfect life” schedule.

Better late than never, right?🙂

I have friends currently beginning their job searches, or still in the middle of one that is taking much longer than they expected to. All I can say is, “It’s hard; I get it… but hang in there!”

In the words of my Gram, “Trust. Soon come.”

I KNOW that’s way easier said than done…

But for tonight, I am thankful.