A couple years ago I began a tradition that has since become one of my favorite blogging endeavors. 2007: An Illustrated Year in Review and then 2008: Another Illustrated Year in Review were my versions of the classic “Christmas Card Letter.” So here, once again, I offer a not-so-brief synopsis of the past year. It’s illustrated, so no pressure to read it all … feel free to just scan the pics, which are my favorite part of the blog anyway. 🙂
After looking back at last year’s concert list, it looks like this year I almost doubled the number of shows attended. Granted, this was my first full year in the area, which made a big difference considering Chicago’s plethora of concert opportunities. It also didn’t hurt that I won tickets to five different shows thanks to a local radio station. 93XRT has fast become one of my favorite aspects of Chicagoland life. From “Saturday Morning Flashback” to “Breakfast with the Beatles” to “Live from the Archives,” XRT plays a wide spectrum of music across decades and genres, expanding my musical horizons at every turn. Thanks to their online giveaway contests, I managed to score free tickets to David Gray, Bob Dylan, Don Henley, The Swell Season, and Pete Yorn/Phoenix/Flaming Lips. Not too shabby. 🙂
All in all, I made it to 21 shows this year:
• Fiction Family – The Union, Naperville, IL
• Death Cab for Cutie (Opening Acts: Ra Ra Riot & Cold War Kids) – The Aragon, Chicago, IL
• Neko Case – Chicago Theatre, Chicago
• Iron & Wine – Schubas, Chicago
• Ben Harper & Relentless7 – The Vic, Chicago
• Counting Crows – Grant Park, Chicago
• Blitzen Trapper – Empty Bottle, Chicago
• Fleet Foxes – Metro, Chicago
• Over the Rhine – Lincoln Park Arts Festival, Chicago
• U2 (Opening Act: Snow Patrol) – Soldier Field, Chicago
• Waterdeep – The Union, Naperville, IL
• Sondre Lerche – Schubas, Chicago
• Wilco – UIC Pavillion, Chicago
• David Bazan – Lincoln Hall, Chicago
• David Gray – Reggie’s Rock Club, Chicago
• Bob Dylan – The Aragon, Chicago
• Randall Goodgame – Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church, Elmhurst, IL
• Don Henley – Rosemont Theatre, Chicago
• Ray LaMontagne – Auditorium Theatre, Chicago
• The Swell Season (Opening Act: Rachael Yamagata) – Auditorium Theatre, Chicago
• Pete Yorn, Phoenix & The Flaming Lips – Allstate Arena, Chicago
A few of these were repeats (Ben Harper, OtR, Waterdeep, Randall Goodgame, Ray LaMontagne, Flaming Lips), but I was fortunate to check several unseens off my list as well. I saw some pretty amazing shows this year, which makes a favorites list difficult, but I think I can narrow down to a top three:
A friend got in on the fan club pre-sale and scored field tickets for their first stop on their US 360 tour at Soldier Field. That show sold out in a matter of minutes, prompting a second performance the following night. I’m not the die hard U2 fan that Randy is, but I couldn’t help but get caught up in the immensity of the night. Whether it was the structure of the stage (which you can see in the bottom picture) or the 60,000+ people in attendance or the sheer force of Bono’s presence, everything about the night was BIG. They played almost every song I could imagine, including “Bad,” and their visual effects were beyond compare.
The Swell Season
“Who are they?,” you may ask. Well, if you haven’t seen Once, stop what you’re doing right now and go watch it. Winners of the Oscar for Best Original Song of 2007, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova collaborated post-film to form The Swell Season. They released a new album in October, further developing the musical chemistry that endeared so many to their movie. Thanks to XRT, my fellow Once appreciator Sharon and I were able to witness their incredible giftedness somewhat up-close and personal. They played for nearly three hours, which included a double encore. Glen performed “Say It to Me Now” sans mic & amps, his passionate voice and well-worn guitar more than making up for their absence. And while his presence and storytelling carried the show, Marketa’s timid yet accomplished style shone through continually.
A couple years ago a friend burned me a copy of Fox Confessor, at which time I was unconvinced as to the greatness that is Neko Case. However, enough people whose musical tastes I respect were fans, so when I heard she was playing at the Chicago Theatre, I figured I’d give her a chance live. From the moment she opened her mouth with the lilting “Maybe Sparrow,” I was mesmerized. She exuded confidence without pretension, obviously comfortable in her own skin, her nonchalant “People Got a Lotta Nerve” as case in point … “I’m a man, man, man, man, man, man-eater; so don’t be surprised, prised, prised when I eat ya.” Most profound stand out lyric of the night: “I want the Pharaohs, but there’s only men.” Neko gets my vote for best concert of the year, and Middle Cyclone gets my pick for best album.
Fabulous people come to visit you when you live in a fabulous place! This year I was incredibly blessed to have both friends and family visit from Texas and Oklahoma. Jack and Carlee came up for their spring break, in which my birthday happened to fall, so it was great to celebrate with them and Jayme. We did lots of fun touristy stuff and watched the last scene of Moulin Rouge about fifteen times (right Jack? :)) Jay came up to get Jayme at the end of the semester, and we made it to a Cubs game, which they won, so we got to sing the famous “Go, Cubs, Go!” A few days later one of my Oklahoma besties made good on a promise she made me the first week I moved up here. Our long weekend included Bahama Breeze, Trader Joe’s, the Mag Mile, meeting IL friends, the unveiling of the new modern wing at the Art Institute, a Ben Harper concert and LOTS of catch up conversation. My old roommate was in Chicago for her summer vacation, which allowed me to meet her boyfriend (now fiancé) and make yet another trip to the Art Institute. Another OK friend vacationed up here as well, and I was super pumped to see Psycho with her in Grant Park. Jack made another trip up, this time with HIS kids. We visited the newly monikered Willis Tower and walked about twenty miles, playing Rook every chance we got. At the beginning of the semester I got to see Kaye for about two hours before she had to turn right back around and fly back to Amarillo for school. And surprise, surprise, my MOM came to visit me in October! When I entered to win Don Henley tickets, I told her that if I won she had to fly up and go with me. She agreed, thinking what were the chances? Haha, evidently they were pretty good. I got four whole days with my momma filled with TWO concerts (another favorite of ours: Randall Goodgame) and a trip to the Shedd Aquarium. She sat in on a couple of my classes, after which she said she understood what her special-ed kids must feel like. 🙂 It was SUCH a great time for us, a definite highlight of the year.
Don’t let the smile fool you; it was a hard year. Beyond hard. Last spring semester was a real challenge, but it pales in comparison to this past fall. I was enrolled in all Old Testament classes: Introduction to Old Testament Exegesis, Hebrew Exegesis of Genesis, Old Testament Theology, and Old Testament Criticism. There are plenty of good things I could say. I had EXCELLENT professors. I was challenged to look at the Old Testament differently and am a better person for it. But I was overwhelmed. One of my two hour classes ended up being more work than than any four hour class I’ve taken, and it didn’t help that I had that professor for another class as well. I wrote a total of 113 pages over the course of the semester. The work load had a paralyzing effect, and I struggled with motivation more than at any other point in my life. I came face to ugly face with my own insufficiency and made it through SOLELY by the grace of the Lord.
Sorry, no pics here. At the end of last spring I lost my nanny job due to the mom losing hers, so this summer I had to find alternate employment. I tutored one test prep student in the spring and picked up a few more tutoring hours at the beginning of the summer, and while I would have loved to pick up more, there just isn’t the same demand for ACT tutoring in the summer. So I cleaned. A friend had worked for a company off and on for a couple years and recommended me to her boss who gave me a job for the summer. I mostly cleaned houses and one small business. It worked well with my schedule and paid okay, but I was very happy to see the fall roll around. After I successfully passed my Hebrew competency exam over the summer, I convinced my old Greek and Hebrew prof to let me TA for him, which basically consisted of grading quizzes every weekend. Another professor asked me to be the tutor for the Greek 101 classes, which was an absolute blast. Some weeks I got paid to do homework, but when students showed up, I felt like I was doing what I was made to do. I also did some more test prep tutoring in the early fall and continued to work at Bath & Bodyworks occasionally.
I am realizing more and more how much of a goal oriented person I am. If I don’t have a tangible goal out in front of me, it’s hard to maintain motivation. So this past spring I decided to begin training for the Chicago Half Marathon. Having run one before (not to mention a full), I opted for an intermediate training plan and set a somewhat audacious goal. I hoped to break two hours, but ended up at 2:08:16. Still a PR, but it was a disappointing race. It was muggy and boring, and I had gone to the U2 concert the night before. I had hoped to run with Jayme, but a never-ending cough at the beginning of the summer prevented her from training. We did get to run a 5K together this fall, however. I pretty much love running with that girl because she pushes me to do better than I ever could on my own. Jayme got third place in her age division, and I got second in mine, crossing the finish line together at 25:46.
I was so blessed to find a good roommate when I moved up here last summer. Emily had just finished the program I was starting but was staying one more year to finish a supplemental degree in Historical and Systematic Theology. She was a valuable resource to me in terms of academic advice, not to mention being a great movie partner. She moved to the city at the beginning of the summer, however, so in the span of two days I helped her move out, moved myself across the hall into her old room, and moved my new roommate in. Then I had a Hebrew midterm the next day. Kristi is a friend from church, and I have loved living with her as well. She puts up with my crazy schedule and the books often strewn about the living room. Both these girls are great concert pals as well!
When I left Oklahoma, I couldn’t imagine having friends like the ones I was leaving behind. And while no one can replace those friends, I am overwhelmingly blessed by the friendships I have made up here. Most of my classmates are married men, and while I certainly consider many of them friends, it’s not like we hang out on the weekends. Angie is my Exegesis kindred spirit … I am SO thankful to have someone who actually understands what I’m going through in this insanely difficult program! I’ve been attending Parkview Community Church basically since I moved here, and the 20 somethings group has really grown in that span of time. I love the diversity of our group and all the people I have met as a result of going. Kristi’s my room-friend (when your roommate’s actually your friend too), Jill’s my grading/concert buddy, and Sharon, while not in my grad program, has become my grad school kindred spirit. From the second we clicked over a love for alliteration, I knew we would become fast friends. Her friendship is truly a gift from the Lord; I don’t think I could have made it through the last semester without her. Marshall and Susan allow us to meet at their house for small group (and occasionally let me crash for dinner) and I have been consistently blessed by their hospitality and wisdom. And while I guess she’s technically family, Jayme is more and more a best friend with every passing year , and I am so thankful to have her living only a mile away.
So that’s 2009. Until next year, friends.