Monday, November 10, 2014

Soft Skills Matter - The Keys to Entrepreneurial Success

                                                                                                           (photo credit:  Tailwind via Pinterest)

Our encore voyage began when I asked Jeremy, "What do you really want to be when you grow up?"  Our journey into our entrepreneurial adventure started that very day. Up until that time, we had both been working since we were about sixteen years old...for someone else!  And let me tell you...starting your own gig and working for yourself is a whole different animal, for sure!  Fast forward four years, and our business is growing nicely.  The Frank, Warren and Jimmy plan is coming to fruition and the Jimmy part was recently able to take a nice vacation to visit Chicago.  

The other day I was freelancing at a meeting, where one of the participants was a representative from Junior Achievement.  Junior Achievements works with high school students to teach entrepreneurial skills and financial literacy.  One of the points the presenter made is that Junior Achievement is placing a heavy focus on teaching "soft skills." Today's employers are complaining that young people entering the work force may have content knowledge, but they are lacking in interpersonal skills, presentation skills, and general work values. 

In looking at our business, and evaluating just why we are able to pull this off, it has occurred to me that my guy has incredible soft skills - I know that sounds kinda weird, but just read on!  It's one thing to be good at the technical aspects of your career, but real success comes from the following things:

1.  A daily routine -  Even though we work out of our home, there is a business routine in place. Jeremy gets up, showers, shaves, and is in the office before 7:30 every morning.  We treat the business as a business!  There is a schedule of projects and a priority of what needs to happen, and in what order. Even though there is some flexibility in our scheduling, the business comes first.

2.  Dressing the part - I know this sounds strange, but Jeremy does not wear jeans to his office.  He generally dresses in khakis and a casual shirt, unless he is meeting a client, and then he steps it up a notch.  If he takes a break to mow the lawn, he will change into jeans, then change back when he returns to work.  The right dress puts him in the right frame of mind.  We treat our own business with the same respect we would if we were working for someone else.

3.  Keeping connections - I believe that one reason Jeremy has been so successful in this second act is that he not only knows hundreds of business people, but he consciously makes an effort to keep in contact with those folks.  Sometimes it's just to check in and see how they're doing.  Sometimes it's to buy a lunch or a cup of coffee.  If he has time while working on an out of town project, he'll try to fill his day by meeting up with other business people.  But the most important thing is that it's always genuine...never a leg humping sort of thing.  It is important to let people know that you value their friendship - not just their business.

4. Keeping your word - If you say you will do something, you do it!  It's as simple as that.  Yet so many young people do not understand the concept that your word is golden.  At the end of the day, your word is all you have!

5.  Being punctual - I sometimes tease the hubs that he is going to arrive early to his own funeral.  But it's a fact that being late to anything is a sign of disrespect.  It says simply, "I am more important than you are, and your time is of no value to me."

6.  Choosing your words wisely -  Handle conflict gracefully.  This is one that is particularly difficult for me, and I learn from the hubs every day.  He is an expert at holding his tongue, or negotiating his way through a difficult conversation without getting someone upset. Unlike me, he rarely just shoots off his mouth.  His responses are careful and considered, and that skill has served him well.

7.  Marketing what you do well - It's important to have a business profile, to understand your own strengths, and to be able to sell your skills, without sounding like you are bragging.  But it's also important to just be genuine about what you are trying to accomplish, so that you don't come off like an annoying salesman.  Have an "elevator speech."  Know how to describe what it is that you do.

8.  Being respectful - Jeremy is one of the most respectful men I know.  And most others know that about him. That quality has indescribable value.

9.  Never burning a bridge - This one can be particularly difficult to master.  When you want to tell someone to suck eggs, just suck it in and keep your mouth shut.  You never know what the future may bring.  The damaging words you say today may end up damaging your reputation tomorrow.  The person you want to rail at today, may end up hiring you tomorrow.

10.  Looking to the long term - Success doesn't happen over night.  It comes from doing your best over and over again.  To that end, take enjoyment in the little victories.  What did you do today that promoted your business goals?  Yeah it over again tomorrow and know that nothing worth doing well is easy. We knew going in that the second year is the year in which many businesses fail - and we kept focused beyond that second year!

11.  Being charming! - Have you ever noticed that many people who are successful in business are just awesome to be around?  They are often funny or charismatic and make those around them just feel good. Sometimes they joke around, but always they leave people feeling valued.  It's really an art - but it can be developed by emulating someone whose business personality you admire.  But be careful...there is a fine line between being charming and being a "suck up."  And the latter can be deadly in forming business relationships.

So how about it, you entrepreneurs out there...are there any other soft skills you can think of to add to the list?  Leave a comment - I'd love to hear about your own experiences!


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Lanyards for Dignity - Making Breast Cancer Just a Tiny Bit Prettier

Breast cancer patients who have had mastectomies are generally fitted with Jackson-Pratt drains to drain off excess fluids following surgery.  These drains are sewn into the patient, and have a long tube and bulb which must be supported so that the patient won't pull it out.

I found out about this nasty little device when one of my good friends, Darlene, underwent a mastectomy and left the hospital with her JP drain suspended from her neck with a 36 inch shoelace! As I understand it, some hospitals pin the drain to clothing, but in our valley, suspending the drain seems to be the preferred method.  

Now I don't know about you, but I can't even begin to imagine the indignity a woman must feel after having lost a breast and then having to wear a shoelace!  And so, the Lanyards for Dignity project was born.  Darlene, being a beader, went home and created a beaded lanyard to hold her drain.  It was quite simple really, just thirty six inches of strong beading wire, some beautiful beads, and a toggle at each end.  Voila - Jackson-Pratt jewelry!

But when she showed us the original hospital shoelace, and told us her story, well, a bunch of us gal pals became outraged and went to work.  A handful of us started buying beads, wire and toggles, and making lanyards for other women in the same situation.  Darlene would take them and package them in lovely bags and then would take a basket of lanyards to her surgeon for other women with breast cancer.  And that surgeon spread the wealth to other surgeons...

...And wouldn't you know it...we can't keep up with the need.  One surgeon in our area does approximately 15 mastectomies a month!  So we're trying to spread the word.  It's not a difficult or expensive craft project.  You can do it while watching television.  It's pretty mindless to string pretty beads on a wire, but it's oooohhhhhh so appreciated!  I can't tell you the number of times we've heard from ladies whose days were brightened because they were allowed to choose a beautiful beaded lanyard when times were at their darkest.

October 25th is National Make a Difference Day.  This is a perfect craft/service project for Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, church groups, retirees - pretty much anyone.  And all you need to do is locate a women's surgeon and share the love.  We even got a local craft store to donate some beads and set up a 'make and take' to honor breast cancer awareness month - only this event was 'make and donate!' 

So won't you join us and Make a Difference?  It means so much to the ladies who must endure this ultimate indignity!  It makes their fight just a little bit prettier. If you need more information, just leave your e-mail in the comments.  And thanks for helping to make Lanyards for Dignity!

#MDDay #breastcancer, #breastcancerawareness

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Do-Overs Can Happen!

Yesterday, I was doing some freelance work which involved looking through a college search engine which is being developed.  The search engine provides a simplified way for students to get information about applying for our state's colleges for the first time.  As I meandered through all of the college websites, I found myself thinking, "Dang!  It would be so fun to go to college again!"  Which got me to thinking about what I would have done differently.  And then that train of thought headed down the 'would you choose a different career?' track.  

Now don't get me wrong.  I was a special education teacher for almost 30 years, and I can honestly say it was my true passion.  But have you ever asked yourself,

"What would I do for a career
 if I could do it all over again?"

I worked my way through the college websites, looking at all the degree and program offerings, thinking, "Oh, that would be cool" or "I'd like to study that," and even, "Oh, yuck! That doesn't sound fun at all!" And then it hit me...There's not a reason in the world that we boomers can't study anything our hearts' desire!  It doesn't have to be a commitment to an entire college degree program.  I'm not planning on starting a new career anytime soon. What I discovered is that most colleges and universities offer a reduced per credit rate for seniors over 60. (It ticks me off that I'm not quite old enough! - Yep, I'm too young for college...who knew?!)  Many postsecondary institutions have adult learning and 'not for credit' programs at a greatly reduced cost.  And for that matter, there are lots of web-based learning opportunities out there that are totally cheap!  A quick Google search brings up plenty of opportunities from campus based programs to YouTube!  All that is required is curiosity and a little time!  And we retirees have nothing if not time, right?  So why not?

Is there anything that you have always wanted to learn how to do?  Any topic that has always peaked your curiosity?  Something that you've always wanted to try? There's no time like the present.  I'd love to hear your stories!  Have you tried any adult learning options or are you planning to do so?  Leave a comment, I'd love it if you'd share!

Monday, October 6, 2014

What Example Are You Setting?

The other night, the hubster attended an awards banquet of our state's professional architectural organization.  When he left the house, he was lookin' oh so fine in a starched white shirt, suit and tie. When he returned home, I asked him how his evening had been.  It had been a ceremony to honor the best architectural efforts by our state's finest.  The thing that disturbed hubs the most about the evening was the number of attendees who wore jeans to the banquet.  

Is this the new trend of the younger generation?  Has casual Friday spilled over into "casual everywhere?"  There had been only about a dozen of the more seasoned architects who wore suits to the event.  When I asked Jeremy if he had been over-dressed, his response was thought provoking:

"I refuse to dress down and set a less than professional example!"

It started our conversation about the number of ways and the reasons why we set an example for others:  

The career example - Are you acting like the type of professional that you would want to hire yourself? Jeremy is bothered by the number of architectural critiques he's attended where the budding architect wore a baseball cap, or stood with thumbs tucked in pockets. He most assuredly would never feel comfortable putting these individuals in front of a client - so he wouldn't hire them!   I know that I, for one, am disturbed by the numbers of young teachers entering the profession who are wearing shorts and flip flops to work!  Ughhh.....Yes, I'm sure they're comfortable - but if the complaint today is that teachers don't get enough respect - HELLO?  Duh...

The reading example - Parents, I'm just gonna say this once.  Parents who read frequently, to their children and for their own pleasure, have children who grow up to be readers.  And a child who reads well has the highest likelihood of success in school/college/life.  Figure it out. (That's enough of my teacher lecture for now...)

The electronic example - How can parents expect their children to develop social skills, and the ability to engage in conversation when they can't put down the devices for 45 minutes.  And worse still is the - "stick my kid on the phone app or I-Pad to keep him busy and out of my hair." (Oops, guess I lied about that lecture thing...)

The consumer example - Adults who must have new cars, jet skis, boats, snowmobiles, the latest rides and huge houses filled with stuff create families for which stuff = success. Only it doesn't.  Never has, never will.  Only leads to broke, unhappy people who will never, ever have enough, and who will define happiness by their possessions.  

The grandma example - I know, I know, don't start blasting me because I have no children of my own. This is just an observation from my perspective.  So many of my friends are constantly buying things for the grand kids because "It's a grandma's right to spoil the grandchildren."  Well, yup, I suppose you're right.  You've done your job raising children, and now you no longer need to think about the message you send them. But if you truly love them, shouldn't you?  Shouldn't you consider that you are sending a message that love is paid for with what you can give them, or that the kid with the most toys wins?  Yes, it's fun to see the reaction on their faces when they see that Grandma has purchased yet another toy. But who is that reeeaaalllly for?  What are you teaching them? How about giving them your undivided attention instead.

The birthday party example - This one baffles me completely.  If you throw a birthday party these days, you must invite everyone who has ever come in contact with the birthday kid (his whole class, the daycare, all friends) because God forbid anyone should feel left out. Then, at said party, YOU must give everyone who attends some sort of GIFT (the goody bag)!  What the hell????  Let's see if I have this right:  "Please come and give me lots and lots of presents.  And just to make sure you do, I'll bribe you with some cheap present back.  And the importance of your relationship to me is irrelevant, cuz you're all included in one big lump of a group."  Oh, and by the way, you'll never need to learn that EVERYBODY DOESN'T ALWAYS GET INVITED in real life. And, kid, instead of our setting the example of generosity, we'll reinforce your need to GET SOMETHING!  And don't even get me started on the ridiculousness of the party themes for 3 year-olds...

The savings example - I believe there are two types of people: Spenders and savers. Savers have grown up always saving something for a rainy day.  They are people who watched their parents routinely save from every paycheck.  They are people who have been taught to value the things they've earned and saved for, and they understand the concept of compound interest.  Spenders just keep buying until it's gone, and generally live from paycheck to paycheck.  The big expenses cause them a world of hurt. What example do you want to set...saver or spender?

The don't be a jerk example - I think this is the one that ticks me off the most.  Why, oh, why is it that grown-ups say ugly things to each other and about each other in the presence of others.  And it's not just in front of children, although children are the ones who bleed the most.  I cringe every time one of my friends says something disparaging about a spouse. Beware the person who will speak ill of someone behind their back - They are speaking about you in the same way in your absence.  

And then I recognize this in my guy...

The hard worker - I don't know how he developed into the hard worker that he is, but I'm fairly certain it's from watching his father.  There is not a lazy bone in the man's body, and he developed that trait from the examples he has seen...

The grateful heart - Not a day goes by that hubs doesn't comment on how lucky we are.  His mom continues to set this example for us all to follow.  At 99 years old, her daily motto is "Life is Good!"

The gentleman - My pet peeve is when I see, in any situation, a woman following along behind, while the husband heads off without her.  It makes me want to scream aloud, "Quit following him like that!  You are not a dog!" (You may correctly imagine that I have said that very phrase in a loud enough voice to be overheard - It's a wonder some man hasn't punched my lights out!)  My guy always, always, always makes certain that he is walking on the street side of any sidewalk, and that I am in a place of safety.  He holds doors, offers an elbow, opens my car door. He learned these social graces by following the examples of a generation of men before him, who learned those skills from their own role models.  

Yowza!  I guess that was just one big ol' lie about not being a naggy lecturing teacher!  Sorry 'bout that! But I fear we may be raising a generation without paying attention to the examples we set for them. When we crotchety boomers complain about the behaviors we observe in the younger generation, a guy's gotta ask, "...and just where did they learn that?"  So how about it?  Do you consider, in your routine, daily interactions, the examples you set for others?  

Leave a comment to let me know the examples I missed, or just to slam me for being an naggy old gal - I've got big shoulders...I can take it!


Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Unexamined Retirement

So remember I said that the other day I had lunch with some gal pals?  Well, as we sat there discussing my little effort here in the blogosphere, my best friend said, "Now don't take this wrong, but what makes you think that anyone would want to read something you've written?"  YIKES!  Holy Crap!!!  Why don'tcha just smack me down there, girlfriend!  I don't think that she intended it to be the dagger to my gut that it was.  I think she was referring more to the type of confidence it would take to write and publish a blog. She followed that statement with how she would never be able to put her feelings out there for other people to read. After I picked my heart up off the floor, I gave her a vanilla answer about how her question is the plague of all writers - The vulnerability of publishing your thoughts for the world to read.

In any case, all the way home I was tormented with "shoulda saids."  Hindsight being what it is, I wish I would have told her:
  • I blog for people who are thinking of retiring, but who are afraid to take the first step.  So many people are afraid that they will be bored.  I want to alleviate that fear.
  • I write a blog because I want to focus on the human elements of retired life - not the nuts and bolts about financial plans, retirement homes, 401-Ks, social security and such, but about the day to day happenings that make it exciting, scary, frustrating, invigorating and wonderful - all at the same time!
  • I blog for people who are starting over - To give a voice to people who want to change and go in an entirely new direction.  Reinventing your life takes some serious guts, but with trial and error and confidence, the rewards are sooooo worth it!
  • I blog for a generation of boomers who, like us, are somewhere between the end of a long employment history and collecting social security.  We have energy and ideas and a lot of living left to do before we set up that rocking chair.
But the most important reason for this blog?  Because I want to prevent people from living an unexamined retirement life!  I have seen so many of my friends, now retired, allowing the days to slip past, without ever really reflecting or asking the big questions:

What's next?
What are my goals?
What do I want to learn, do, try or be?
Is there anything that I've always wanted to try or do?
Where do I see myself in the next 10 years?

Because, my friend, if you don't pay attention, you will let your retirement years slip away. You will sleep in, watch TV, play computer games, go out to lunch with friends, play golf, babysit those grandkids, and before you know it, a couple of decades will have passed, and I don't want you to get to the end of it asking, "Is that it???"  Because the only path to a rich, rewarding and vigorous retirement requires some soul searching and self reflection...
...and I want to help you with that.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Retirement Favorites: 8 Big Things and a Few Extras!

A couple of days ago, I had lunch with two of my gal pals.  One is just beginning her second year of retirement. The other, a school district employee, has met the "Rule of 90" qualifications for retirement, but as yet is still working for the district.  In our conversation, as the two of us told the third about the things we missed about working (mainly, teaching children and spending time with our adult colleagues), I found myself trying to convince the third friend that she really should consider retiring.  We discussed the need for insurance benefits and the fear of boredom, and of spending too much time with our spouses.  We chatted and laughed and caught up on all the insider scoop of the school district, and then gal number three asked,

"What is your favorite thing about retirement?"

It would have been easy to give her a smart ass answer and say, "Oh, sleeping in til noon...", but as I was driving home, it occurred to me that this is a question deserving of a thoughtful answer.  So here is my assessment of this current gig:

1.  No stress! - By far, my number one favorite thing about retirement is that my days are no longer consumed by stressful situations.  Most careers are filled to the brim with deadlines, client demands, things that needed to be handled yesterday...but not retirement.  If something doesn't get done today, there's always tomorrow...ahhhhh, bliss!

2.  Fluidity of schedule - I get to decide for myself what to make of the day.  Should I blog in the morning or at midnight?  No, wait...I think I want to read now, and I'll do some client work later this afternoon.  The other day, my clothes drier exploded, and I needed to call the repair man.  As I was scheduling the appointment, it occurred to me how much easier this is than when I was teaching.  So repairman, how about we push that back until after 2:00 PM, because I might not be finished golfing before then.

3.  Freedom to learn new things - This is one of my favorite benefits of retirement. I now have time to explore anything in the world my mind can computer skills, foreign languages, building things, reading, even starting an entirely new career.  Never has there been this much freedom to pursue interests since the day I graduated from high school with the whole world spread out ahead of me.  Only this time, I have a few miles, a few bucks, some experience, and some wisdom to go with it.

4.  Time to be creative - I used to have so many things I wanted to sew, make, create and try...but that pesky job kept getting in the way.  Projects used to be pushed off until the weekend, and then could only materialize once the house was cleaned and the laundry was done.  Well now, that's just not the case.  I have so many projects going, I had to type up a list to keep track of them all - my only dilemma is deciding on what next to work!

5.  Getting lost in the literature - I have always been a voracious reader.  My only problem was that in my exhausted working life, I'd try to read in bed before turning off the light, would routinely fall asleep while reading, forget what I had read, and would need to back up a few pages the following night to figure it out.  Sound familiar?  Well in retirement, you get to make reading a priority and give it the time it deserves.  Heavenly!

6.  Time for travel and exploration - We're just getting started on this facet of our retirement life.  But we've learned that we need to Just Book It and go.  The concept of being able to decide when and where to visit next, without worrying about vacation schedules and work demands and deadlines is so liberating!  From a few miles to thousands, this part of the journey is proving to be a favorite thing!

7.  We're never tired! - I know that's a novel concept, but it's true.  Jeremy used to marvel at my ability to fall asleep every night within 3 minutes of closing my eyes.  The truth was that, during my teaching career, I was burning the candle at both ends, and was in a state of perpetual exhaustion!  Now, I'm never particularly tired.  I used to think that only old people went to bed early and rose early - but now I realize that it's the luxury of being able to follow natural circadian rhythms - without all of the artificial constraints that employment adds to our lives.  We sleep when we're tired, and wake when we're rested - and that, as they say, is that!

8.  Togetherness - It took a little getting used to, and a bit of compromise, but one of the very best things about our Encore Voyage is that we are making the journey together.  And while we make it a point to honor each other's need for space and private time, there's lots to be said for going down this road hand in hand.

So these would be the "biggies."  But there are a jillion other little small daily things that make retirement just the best:

  • Having time to enjoy my morning coffee and read the paper without rushing out the door.
  • There is no more laundry day.  When the basket gets full, I throw in a load.
  • The house is always pretty clean.  Doesn't have to be accomplished on the weekend.
  • The guilt free afternoon nap!
  • Spending time with my gal pals - while everyone else is at work!
  • Shopping any time but on a weekend.
  • Not having to go out in the snow if you don't want to!
  • My friends say, "spending time with grandkids." - I wouldn't know about that...
  • Taking time to really see and appreciate our surroundings - Life is not such a rush!
I know that there are lots of other favorite things.  So how about it?  What are your favorite things about retired life?  I'd love it if you'd share in the comments.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chicago, That Toddling Town - 9 Fabulous Things to Do

Well, we just got back from spending a week in Wisconsin and Chicago.  Yup, we just Booked It!  One of the items on Our List was to visit the works of Frank Lloyd Wright.  That dude was the greatest influence on Jeremy's decision to become an architect, and we'd always said, "Someday..."

Someday finally came and we flew to O'Hare, got a rental car, and drove to

 1.  Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wisconsin.  It was the home that he designed in 1911 and continually changed until his death in 1959.  If you have any love of architecture, this place is truly inspirational.

We drove back to downtown Chicago, where we stayed at

2.  The Palmer House Hotel - This gorgeous historical hotel reopened in 1873, and has become the nation's longest continually operating hotel.  And it has such a romantic story - It was the world's best wedding present from Potter Palmer to his fiance, Bertha.  But just 13 days after it opened, The Palmer House burned to the ground in the Chicago fire!  Bertha rebuilt the hotel, and the result is crazy stunning!  You just have to see the goooorrrrgeous vaulted mural ceiling in the lobby.  (Swoon...I just love a good romance!)

One more beautiful thing about the Palmer House is that it is just a couple short blocks from

3.  Millennium Park -  Part of the Grant Park system, Millennium Park has lot to see and do. Located along the shores of Lake Michigan, the park is home to about a gazillion cool art installations, an outdoor amphitheater, gardens, fountains and miles of walking and bike paths. We just happened to be there during the Chicago Jazz Festival - How stinkin' lucky were we!

4.  Cloud Gate - This outdoor sculpture is their pride and joy, and is lovingly referred to by Chicagoans as "The Bean."  Its highly polished and reflective surface highlights the Chicago skyline and presents an ever changing view of the people who can move around and even under it!  Ya just can't resist going up to it and making all kinds of faces and poses.  But don't worry, because you won't be the only one acting dorky.  It really is a Chicago Gem.  A must see...

5.  And if you want to see even more of the park along Lake Shore Drive, I'm not kidding you even a little bit when I tell you that the most crazy fun way to do it is with Absolutely Chicago Segway Tours.  We arranged the Segway Art and Architecture tour, and I thought it was the best thing we did on the whole trip.  Not to worry, even the klutziest among us (and I'm speaking from experience here) can learn to ride a Segway in about five minutes! First they geek you out with stylin' helmets and then you are off and rolling!  Paul, our guide provided information sprinkled with fun stories, and was a willing photographer to boot.  We covered about 8 miles in two hours on those little hummers...Saw lots and lots of neat things. It would have killed us to have attempted to walk to all those sites.  When the two hour tour was up, I was wishing that I didn't have to give the Segway back!  I may very well now be a Segway junkie.  I can tell you that from now on, I'll look for Segway tours when visiting new cities. (I hear you can do it in Rome...hmmmmm....)

6. Robie House - Located on the University of Chicago Campus, this home was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1910 for Frederick C. Robie.  The home's low pitched roofs and strong horizontal lines are the quintessential example of Prairie Style architecture.  You can tour the inside of the home and take in some of the furnishings and all of the exquisite woodwork and art glass windows.  It's beautiful, especially in light of the fact that he designed it in the early 1900's!

7. Museum of Science and Industry - This is a must do if you visit Chicago, especially if you have kids.  This huge place is a discovery center on steroids!  We spent an entire afternoon here, and did not even get close to seeing everything - From lightning and tornadoes to a coal mining operation, MSI has something for every interest.  I know it sounds gross, but you can look at all the nerves in your body, all your blood vessels, get the idea.  I think our favorite thing was the huge model railroad layout, The Great Train Story.  This layout models all of the train types, and includes landscapes from the port of Seattle to downtown Chicago.  Brought the big kid out in Jeremy!

8. Chicago Cultural Center - We learned about this old building from our Segway guide, and it was well worth stopping by to check it out.  The building originally opened in 1897 and was the first permanent home for Chicago's Public Library.  It's free to go in and see any number of art exhibits, performances, lectures and film screenings.  On the day we were there, we happened upon a textile artist, working with a variety of different looms and yarns. People were invited to try their hands at weaving!  But the main reason we went in was to see the world's largest Tiffany glass dome!.  They call this place, "The People's Palace," and it truly is just that.

9. The Art Institute of Chicago - So is it just somehow wrong to take a selfie with a Picasso?  Well that's exactly what we did, cuz we're just nerdy like that.  We wanted to take one with American Gothic (you know, the farmer, wife and pitchfork classic), but it was out on loan.  If it weren't, you could go to The Art Institute of Chicago and see it in person, because it lives there!  And those are just two of the bajillion awesome pieces of art in that huge and wonderful museum. And if you go right now, the Magritte exhibition is there.  (You know him...The guy in the bowler hat with the green apple in front of his face from The Thomas Crown Affair?  Yeah, him.)  Even the building's addition, which holds the modern art collections, is a really cool piece of architecture in itself.  Better plan at least a couple of days (or years) if you are any kind of art lover at all...

Since we returned, many people I have told about our trip have said, "Oh, I love Chicago! It's a really fun place to visit!"  They are absolutely right!  I can't wait to go back, because there are still things I need to do.  Like ride the el train (I think that would be fun for a western girl!), and see Sue, the T-Rex at the Field Museum, and go to Soldier Field and the Shedd Aquarium, and...

And just so you know, nobody paid me to write about any of this stuff.  I just wanted to share some of the cool things we did while we were in town.  All of the photos and ideas are things I wanted to share about our vacay.  So how about it.  What did we miss?  Leave a comment to share your ideas about what we should do next time!