How to navigate the post-holiday doldrums

After all the gifts have all been opened and the mess cleaned up, it’s possible to get a feeling of let-down, whether or not you had a great time and got good gifts.

There is such an almost continuous adrenaline rush from Thanksgiving leading up to the religious holidays much of the world celebrates at year’s end. There was much shopping to be done, gifts to buy, meals to prepare, greeting cards to send, work-related holiday parties, family stuff, holiday cheer and gift exchanges with friends, trying to get all the work done at the office before the office is closed for the holidays…Whether you floated through all this with a joyful “Christmas spirit” or felt mega-stressed-out, there is suddenly a huge lull in activity post-Christmas. It’s as if life comes to a screeching halt, and it’s possible to even feel a bit blue.


Here are some activities you may wish to pursue to lose the blues:

  • Play with your toys — whether that be setting up new electronics, having a spa day at home with all the bath and beauty products you may have received or wearing new clothes and accessories. Whether or not Santa brought you what you wanted, putting what you did receive into play will bless you with a sense of appreciation.
  • As for those gifts you don’t want, now is the time to go out and exchange them. The stores start hosting sales immediately after Christmas, so this is a great time to get out there and exchange those gifts. Don’t hesitate; you’ll feel much better after you do this; a feeling of relief will come over you, because now you will have something new that suits you.
  • This is a great time, in any case, while prices are slashed, to go shopping. Take advantage of post-holiday sales. If you got gift cards, they’ll stretch further now. Even if you didn’t, you’ll score at the stores.
  • Go into the office and work on the days that most people don’t. You’ll get more done when the phones aren’t ringing and emails flooding in. You can catch up and accomplish stuff before the new year business thrust starts and get set up for the new year.
  • Most towns leave up their decorations into the new year. If you were too busy to enjoy all the seasonal sights before, now you can do so at your leisure. Chicago, for example, is aglow in lights and decor. Check out Macy’s famous windows, stroll past the magnificent Art Institute lion statues donned with gigantic wreaths. Check out the pretty decorations in malls like Water Tower Place, The Shops at Northbridge, Block 37. There is so much to see in your free time, plus this is a good way to get some exercise – but bundle up properly and commute safely in this extreme cold we’re experiencing!
  • Chicago and can feel like a ghost town at this time – except in Millennium Park which I hear is absolutely bustling today. Most cities probably feel like ghost towns at this time with many out of town. It’s an ideal good time to try a new restaurant. You won’t have to fight the crowds and feel squeezed into a noisy establishment; instead you can relax comfortably and get personalized service. Proprietors will appreciate the business during this slower season.
  • To really spice up this time of year, why not try one thing you haven’t done before. How about ice skating. Or visiting the top of the top of two of the tallest buildings in the world: the John Hancock and Willis Tower.
  • Make plans for New Year’s Eve if you haven’t already and devote a couple of days to prep for it. Find out what your friends are planning; maybe you can join them. Check out local Facebook Tap into Metromix or local sites like Chicago Loop Alliance to find out what’s going on in your area.
  • Buy yourself a great outfit and treat yourself to some professional grooming at your local salon to get dolled up for your New Year’s Eve event of choice. Do this even if you decide to stay in for New Year’s Eve so that you can enter the new year looking good.
  • We’re all acquainted with the concept of spring cleaning. Do some winter cleaning while it’s cold out to get a jump on it. Clear out and organize that back closet or those drawers or cabinets, throwing out and giving stuff away. You’ll feel lighter. What could be better than starting your new year with a sparkling clean home.
  • Use this quieter week of the year to get back in touch with those with whom you may have fallen out of contact. Find and friend them on Facebook. Send new year greetings, maybe even hand-written notes by mail. Someone may be thinking of you – here’s a quaint idea: Call them!
  • Take the time to reflect on the year: Get out your journal if you kept one, analyze lessons learned, dive into your psyche, go ahead and cry one last time, chuckle at the funny parts, let yourself get spiritual with it and decide how you might want to live next year differently/better.
  • Make your list of new year’s resolutions – but instead of waiting till the new year, start your resolutions NOW. You will have a head start on the new year that will give you a sense of empowerment.
  • Aside from the usual resolutions, consider how you’d like to make next year better. Make a list of goals and wishes and then break each down into smaller components, step-by-step to-do lists. Do this now so you can plan a fabulous new year of dreams come true and maybe even your best year yet.

Maybe you don’t want to do much of anything during this week other than lounge around the house, eat holiday goodies and catch up on movies — fine; it’s a good time to unwind! Do bear in mind, though, that there will be plenty of opportunity for kicking back on the couch during this cold winter, so get out when you can.

This week is for you, so whatever you do, be happy!


Chicago Loop holiday shopping – part 2, Christkindlemarket


“Oh the weather outside is frightful…” but Christkindlmarket is oh-so delightful!

It seems to happen almost every year without fail: Come December, Chicago seems to get hit with sudden winter comprised of temperature dips plus snow. One thing we can depend on here in the Chicago area is that no matter how pleasant autumn may be, it’s a short season, and winter usually bears down in December, just in time to make holiday shopping all the more tricky.

But we’re Chicagoans; we expect it, we’re used to it and we’re tough enough to handle it! So pull on your heavy hooded coats and water-proof boots, big scarves and serious gloves and head over to Christkindlmarket at the Daley Plaza for some holiday cheer along with your holiday shopping! Also, to duck out of the cold and slush, you can take the pedway and come right up into it.

If you work nearby in the Loop, how ideal to pop over on your lunch break, when the sun is warm and high in the sky, for a hearty sausage sandwich with a side of potato pancakes, a hot chocolate to wash it down and one of the several wonderful old world bakery treats to end your meal on the perfect note.

For those who can take it, there are spots to stand around outdoors and eat, though your food will stay warmer if you head indoors for a more comfortable meal in a tent set up for indoor dining. Your co-workers will adore you for bringing back some of the baked goods or the interesting candy sold at Christkindlmarket. Stock up on baked goods while you can here, for holiday parties or your own pleasure. Traditional old world bakeries are scarce downtown.

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But let’s not forget why we stopped by: To shop for holiday gifts! Christkindlmarket abounds with everything from delightful trinkets to toys to fine jewelry. Here you can find unique tree ornaments, quaint holiday decorations, old-fashioned toys for the kids, one-of-a-kind jewelry for someone special and much more!

If you stop by in the afternoon or evening, you may experience the pleasure of live entertainment. And if pass through after work, there’s beer and a potent and tasty hot spiced wine (glug) very popular during the colder months in parts of Europe. Be sure to try it at least once (if you’re of age); you’ll find you start to forget about the cold, plus you can take the festive mug home as a souvenir. Drink up, though, because no alcoholic beverages are allowed outside the perimeter of the marketplace.

Cops stand guard watching, and of course security is extra vigilant – you have to get past cops in both directions, on your way in and on your way out and be subject to search — so don’t worry about safety issues.

If you come downtown with the family for some festive winter events and shopping, be sure to bring the children by Christkindlmarket to meet with Santa in the traditional manner.

This charming village, that seems to be transported straight from the scenic hills of Germany and plunked right down in the midst of the city, only comes once a year and only lasts about a month (from mid-November till Christmas Eve). Be sure to come and enjoy it and gather up some unusual gifts!

Happy shopping, and happy holidays to my readers near and far!

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Chicago: Where the holiday action is, part 2


Part 1 in this two-part series announced the kick-off of the holiday season in downtown Chicago. Here is more of what’s happening during this jolly month ahead across Chicago:

Through January 8 – Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier. Navy Pier boasts one-of-a-kind shops, famous food spots, carnival rides and entertainment of almost every type and truly is a wonder to behold and enjoy during every season. But at this time of year, the decorations are larger than life. Plus Navy Pier hosts its annual Winter Wonderfest, including ice skating, which is like a holiday paradise for all ages.

December 8 and 15 – Fairly recently, I discovered the famous Cloud Gate in Millennium Park talks and tells its story. Now there’s singing there too through mid-December. On Friday evenings at 7:00 p.m., there will be choral performances and gigantic sing-alongs around “the Bean.”

December 8, 15 and 22 – Andersonville Late Nights 2017. Late night shopping, especially at holiday-time, while common in the suburbs, is rare in the city. Get some late night shopping in at the fascinating neighborhood of Andersonville. Seasonal fun and specials go on all around you to brighten these very special nights. Andersonville is a very vibrant neighborhood that really shines at this time of year. Click here for a list of deals and events. A special event that takes place in Andersonville (originally an area where many Swedes settled) is the Swedish tradition the Festival of Lights on Wednesday, December 13.

December 8-23, 26-31 and January 1-7 – Lincoln Park Zoo Lights. In my article about Lincoln Park Zoo, I pointed out the fun never stops at this zoo. Driving along Lake Shore Drive at night, the zoo looks like a magical place with its colorful lights – and it is. Don’t just be content to gawk at it from afar; join the Zoo Lights winter revelry which includes food, drink, a holiday market and live music – and it’s free!

December 9-24 – If you’ve not yet experienced the way the Music Box Theatre celebrates the season, I highly recommend it! Think you’ve seen all the classic Christmas movies too many times already? I guarantee you’ve never experienced them quite like this. Many attendees really get in the spirit by dressing up, bringing props including noise makers, reciting famous lines and best of all, singing along to these old-time movies. The Music Box Christmas Double Feature & Sing-A-Long will put you in the Christmas spirit! You can catch a single feature too if you’d rather. Check the website to see the schedule and order your tickets – get them while you can, because this is a very popular event. Devotees to this event go faithfully year after year.

December 12 & 19 – The Do It Yourself Messiah at Millennium Park. George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” is one of the most glorious oratorios in history – and one of the most popular especially at Christmas time and Easter. The music is so elevating, it’s natural to want to sing along. Here’s your chance, under the guidance of conductor Stanley Sperber and along with famous singers and musicians. Not much into singing? Maybe you should be! Several studies have concluded that singing is good for you: for your heart, lungs, circulation, sinuses and brain, immunity…as well as being emotionally uplifting and, ultimately, relaxing.

Add to all the great shopping and entertainment and sights to take in downtown, there are also great places to dine and drink. Whether grabbing lunch or enjoying a meal before the trek homeward, these are fascinating places to dive into the mix of regular locals, local tourists and people from around the world.

If you live downtown, there’s no excuse to miss all Chicago has to offer at this time of year, whether to join in an event, or simply enjoy this beautiful, colorful and classy city.

I advise you get up and out; take a revitalizing walk (perhaps at least partially by pedway if it’s frightfully cold) enjoy all that Chicago has to offer, from it’s gigantic events to the green and red-lit buildings to the planters bursting with fragrant evergreens and all the touches of beauty that Maggie Daley added to this town that transformed it from an old grey city to one of the world’s most beautiful.

If you don’t live downtown, Chicago during the holiday season is definitely worth at least one if not several trips downtown to make a day or a weekend of it; bring the whole family!

Happy Holidays! Shop, eat, drink, be merry, stay safe (be vigilant) and have fun!

Chicago: Where the holiday action is, part 1

yes2‘Tis the season to stop lamenting those bygone hot summer days, leave Halloween behind, and start enjoying all the fun Chicago has to offer during the holiday season! Whether you live downtown or commute into the city, Chicago has good times for everyone now — so bundle up, come on out and let’s have some fun!

The Chicago Lights Festival is this weekend through Saturday, November 18. Festive lights lining the Mag Mile get turned on to brighten up the winter in conjunction with a parade. Get over to Pioneer Court to revel in all sorts of entertainment including live bands. Bring the kids, because Santa has arrived in town! Many shops and restaurants in the area offer special deals at this time. The only ones who may not be pleased about all this are residents of the area trying to commute in vehicles, as there are street closures necessitating detours.

Macy’s on State Street now has its Christmas windows on display through January 7. Their theme this year is “Reasons to Believe,” promoting their Believe campaign (in conjunction with the Make-A-Wish Foundation that grants wishes to children with serious illnesses). How can you help? Write a letter to Santa – even if you’re an adult – and money will be donated to this wonderful cause. Instructions are here.

Crowds gather to view these, and it’s hard to get up front and see. If the kid in you wants to get close to the windows, the best times to do this are before schools let out for winter break and before or after shopping hours, which are extended during the holidays.

yes3No matter the weather, huddle with the crowds at Christkindlemarket at Daley Plaza in Chicago, open now through December 24. It will probably put your mind at ease to know the City of Chicago has beefed up security for this and holiday events in general throughout Chicago. So come gawk at the gorgeous tree and the charming shops. The food and drink will warm you and the shops will dazzle you with unique items, plus there is live entertainment.

Also during this exciting mid-November weekend, the ice skating rinks have just opened: You can now ice skate at the Millennium Park ice rink and the Maggie Daley Park ice skating ribbon. Skates are available for rent. Don’t miss your chance this year to do this! These skating rinks are like no place else anywhere; you’ll be surrounded by sparkling skyscrapers.

Thanksgiving weekend is coming right up. This includes the annual Thanksgiving Day parade. If you live right on State Street and plan to stay out partying the night before (“Black Wednesday”), be aware the parade preparations start in the wee hours of the morning on and around State Street. New residents in the area will no doubt be completely caught off guard by this.

Ear plugs could come in handy if you’re trying to get your sleep, because there’s always some guy with a bullhorn bellowing out instructions; this starts well before the parade and continues throughout. Bands line up and practice before the parade starts too. It gets very noisy. In the past, we simply gave in when the parade started, no matter how little sleep: Got up and sat in our pj’s by the window, coffee in hand, watched the parade, and then went back to bed for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner nap.

The annual Turkey Trot takes place the day after Thanksgiving in Lincoln Park. The cool thing about this is it’s  for walkers as well as runners and people of all ages. There’s a Turkey Day Run 5K/8K and a Plymouth Rock Ramble kids race. These are followed by yet more fun activities including Corn Hole, Football Toss and Turkey Bowling. Thanksgiving costumes are encouraged. Dress as a turkey — but don’t be one: Sign up now or sponsor a participant, because proceeds go to feed Chicago’s hungry via the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

yes, smallAdditionally, for those who don’t wish to cook and have no place to go for Thanksgiving or just want to do your own thing, there are loads of Chicago restaurants serving tasty Thanksgiving dinners. Click here for a list of just some of the excellent restaurants offering Thanksgiving feasts.

Check back soon for part 2 and learn about more Chicago seasonal events hosted with your delight and enjoyment in mind! If you subscribe to my blog (a free and easy process, right from this page), I will keep you informed so you can experience loads of holiday fun this year in downtown Chicago.

Find your voice…and use it!

Chicago Ideas Week’s 2017 “Finding Your Voice with VOXX and Queens Brunch” lab was geared toward women, but men can use these techniques too, because we all need to find our voice and speak up. To not do so is stifling.

Every women has a voice, but women aren’t always encouraged to use their voices (and are sometimes even discouraged from speaking), so not all women are used to sharing their voices. And it’s hard to use your voice if you don’t even know your voice. This workshop and what I will share with you here will assist you in finding and utilizing your voice. Once you do, things should start to look up in your life.

The workshop started out when we were asked to do a couple of small exercises. The first, although so quick and simple, felt extremely liberating: We wrote down on a piece of paper something we wanted to expel. Then we crumpled it up and threw it away. Next, we were asked to stand up and shake various body parts to loosen up, something we should do any time we feel tight/stressed. That of course felt good too.

The organizations VOXX and Queens Brunch were described and a bit about each group’s founders (Lisa Sorich and Rosetta Lane of VOXX and Shayna Atkins of Queens Brunch).  VOXX is about bringing women together to give them the chance to share their voices. Queens Brunch is an organization that brings women together to find their voices over brunch. A practice at VOXX is two women sitting on a couch sharing what they have learned.


Kari McGrath and Torri Shaaron were invited to come up to the stage and make themselves comfortable on the couch. What followed was a conversation between them that was very frank and open, thought-provoking, inspirationally stimulating and potentially life-altering to those in the audience who needed to hear these women’s stories so we too could find our voices.

McGrath said she had been feeling “like a bird in a cage” who couldn’t find her song. She described this feeling as energy-draining, especially as she was the type of person who really invested herself and “gave 110 percent.” When she was let go from her job, it felt like she was set free out of the cage. She described this as a beautiful shift. Subsequently she got into coaching and built a business helping others to “show up.“

Tidbits of McGrath’s wise advice:
We each have a story. Write your story the way you want it to be.
Follow other story tellers because it’s helpful to learn that somebody else has a similar story.
We have several characters living within us. For instance, there can be chatter in our heads that tries to discourage us, makes us doubting whether we are good enough, whether we should even try to do something amazing. Ignore all that; hear a different voice!
Get rid of preconceived notions; let go of what you think it should be like. Throw all that away. One concept to throw away, for instance, is that of “perfect timing.” Don’t wait for that!
When what you are doing comes from your passion, it makes sense and it all falls into place.

Shaaron quit her job in engineering, and although still not employed, she now has her voice. She believes in disruption: Speaking up and challenging the norm, throwing away the rule book. When she does re-enter the workforce, she knows she “wants to work only with nice people.”

Some of Shaaron’s words of wisdom:
Sometimes you don’t know what “there” looks like much less how to get from here to there…but you know you have got to get there. Her motto is “Just start.”
Sometimes you voice is challenged and you have to stretch our of your comfort zone. The biggest challenge can be you own self-doubt. We all want to be liked and respected. Sometimes you need to stand up and speak out.
Important values: Respectful honesty, being kind, staying true to the mission.

Kari mentioned that our center is where our voice lives. So she had us get quite, comfortable  and close our eyes while she led us on three visualization journeys. Readers, try these feel-good confidence-boosters yourself:

  1. Think back to when you were at your best, the top of your game, confident, you were in the right place at the right time and things were going your way. How did that feel?
  2. If you had your own billboard, what would it say?
  3. Imagine yourself about to go on stage to make a presentation and a voice addresses you by name and says, “In the next few moments, when you get on stage, you will make an impact that affects everyone in the audience for the rest of their lives” What would you want that impact to be?

Next, we were given brief questionnaires to fill out. Readers, fill in the blanks for a better understanding of when your voice gets locked and how to unlock it:

  • When I am passionate, I sound like:
  • My voice gets small when:
  • What I want to say more of, more often is:
  • My voice is unlocked when:


After another similar fill-in-the-blanks exercise, a request was made that two folks from the audience volunteer to go to the couch and talk about how these exercises helped them. Here are some of the highlights of two one-on-one couch conversations that followed:

A strongly patriarchal upbringing can lead to an ongoing fear of authority.
Many of us have lost jobs; this led to the discovery that often it takes losing a job in order to find our voice. This is not unusual.
You can say you were “fired” or “let go.” The second way of looking at it is obviously more positive and, in fact, freeing.
We are all making it up as we go. So it’s okay to say, “I don’t know. I have to think about it.” And also to call on others for help or advice.
First things first: You have to “be there.” Being more present to one’s own heart, soul, gut will enable you to know exactly how you feel about a situation before you speak.
No matter what you’re going through, “You’re going to get through it.” Keep going.
Let your light shine — but also let the light in!

Atkins of Queens Brunch wrapped up by imparting some gems of wisdom:
When people network, most people seek to network up. But what is often overlooked: It’s very important to network across as well.
She feels most fervent when she knows she has a tribe at the end of her journey. Women, find your tribe or collect a tribe around you.
“You can start over. You can do anything!”