Sister’s Visit – Chicago – 2014

Last week, one of my sisters came for her annual visit.  As we amble through our seventies, these visits become almost sacred. Some day, hopefully not soon, our knees or our hips or our whole  bodies may say, “No more travel.” So while she can still hoist a suitcase onto Amtrak, and while I still have the zest to plan “events” for us to do in Chicago, we don our tennis shoes and walk, walk, walk. She doesn’t know what I plan; I only tell her the times we have “events.”

My plans:

Wednesday: Meet Amtrak at 10:30. Take bus home. Make spinach, pecan, apple, cheddar cheese salad lunch. Attend Art Institute lecture on Magritte at 1. Get coffee in Members’ Lounge. Walk Michigan Ave south to Jackson; see  Icelandic artist Steinunn Thorarindottir’s sculptures.


Walk north to Mariano’s (grocery); take gelato break on their outdoor patio overlooking Lakeshore East park. Walk further north to Eataly; buy cheese/tomato focaccia bread. Walk south back home. Pack picnic with focaccia bread. Walk east to Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion at 5:45. Eat picnic. Listen to The Blue Planet in Concert (written and conducted by George Fenton), simultaneously viewing the award-winning film of life in the ocean. Walk home.

(6.5 miles, 15, 272 steps)

Thursday: Walk to hair appointments at 10; get haircuts. Walk to Walgreens; buy yellow roses. Take bus to friend’s house at 12:30. Give her the roses. Eat the yummy lunch she has prepared: fresh beet, goat cheese, caramelized walnut salad; crusty wheat and white rolls; and homemade strawberry shortcake.


Walk home, via the John Hancock building; strain necks to look way up to the The Tilt. Eat dinner my husband has made: steak on the grill, stir-fry kohlrabi, black cherries, strawberries at 5:30. Walk to Goodman Theater at 6:45; see Brigadoon.

(3.7 miles, 5800 steps)

Friday: Eat breakfast at Pittsfield Cafe (omelet, wheat toast, fruit cup, and coffee). Shop: Pay Half, Burlington Coat Factory, TJMaxx. Loiter over Starbucks iced mochas at Macys. Shop Macys. (By shopping, I mean to savor the smooth or pebbly feel of all the fabrics; bask in their summer brilliance of salmon pinks and royal blues; and decide we don’t need anything right now.) Eat lunch at Toni’s Patisserie (spinach quiche, butternut squash soup). Walk home. Take selfie in my hallway mirror.


Take bus to Union Station. Hug. Say good-bye. Say we won’t cry.

(2.5 miles, 5800 steps)

Start planning for next year. Want to join us?

Historic Pullman – Chicago

Last Saturday, a few friends and I visited Historic Pullman in Chicago, Pullman, as in George Pullman, the inventor of the Pullman Palace (railway) Car. Even though I’ve lived in the Chicago area for nearly fifty years, I’m sorry I’ve never visited before.

IMG_0754The brochure from the Visitors’ Center notes that now the area is an active residential community, interested in maintaining itself for future generations. But, back in 1880-1881, Pullman built this planned community solely for his workers in the nearby Pullman Palace Car factory.

The tree-bordered streets give an aura of tranquility where once there was bustling activity. Pullman planned the town to meet all the needs of his workers, including a church, school, central market place, hospital, hotel, and various levels of housing, ranging from workers’ cottages to executive homes, plus boarding houses for the unmarried workers.

Even though it was not an official visit day last Saturday, a warm and generous volunteer saw us outside of the church and invited us in. She said Pullman wanted a large place to meet with his workers, so the church also served as a meeting hall.

IMG_0898The history of George Pullman’s ingenuity and eventual greed is complex and worth reading more in-depth. But, for now, take a little walking tour:

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The vacant, crumbling Hotel Florence is scheduled to reopen some day as a bed and breakfast. My friends and I hope it is fairly soon, so we can stay overnight in our lifetime! Peeking inside a window, I viewed original wood work, tall elegant ceilings, and a check-in desk. History says it was the only place in Pullman where Mr. Pullman allowed liquor to be served. The school had both a girls and a boys entrance. Wonder how that would fly today!

The Visitors’ Center  brochure suggests visitors look for these things:

1.  The continuity of blocks; almost all the original residences still exist.
2.  The variation in facades, designed by Solon S. Bemen, architect, along each Row.
3.  The signs of private restoration (notably the use of Pullman colors, maroon and dark and light shades of green).

Historic Pullman is open for tours the first Sunday of the month from May through October. And, they hold a weekend-long Annual House Tour on the second weekend of October that allows visitors to enter private homes. The area is easily accessible on the Metra at either the 111th or 115th Street stations. The former is closer to the Visitors Center, the latter is cleaner.

While at the Visitors Center, ask for a recommendation for a place to eat. As far as I could tell, there was only one place, Cal-Harbor Restaurant and Lounge, near the 115th station. I had a soft cheese omelet  and crisp wheat toast, with a delicious mound of grits, for under $5.00. And lots of friendly local color.


Read more about Historic Pullman.

New Neighbors in Millennium Park – 2014

Living in the city, we have lots of interesting neighbors. But the latest newcomers, at 21 to 39 feet, are the tallest. From my living room window, I recently spotted a large white oval resembling the top half of a gigantic egg. So we took a trip across the street, and this is what we found facing Michigan Avenue.

IMG_0773We found more “elongated female heads” just east of Jaume Plensa’s other creation in the park, Crown Fountain.

IMG_0768From these sculptures, facing west, we could see Chicago’s skyline and the children splashing in the space between the two waterfall faces of Crown Fountain.

IMG_0766We could barely find these “brown” dreamy heads among the trees as they stand guard over the children as their parents line up alongside to watch. Crown Fountain is a favorite among kids, parents, and retirees like us as a cooling time out on a hot summer day.

IMG_0771See more photos in the article below:

Giant Heads Turn Heads in Millennium Park | Chicago Tonight | WTTW.

You are welcome to join our new neighbors as they help us celebrate the tenth anniversary of Plensa’s Crown Fountain. The sculptures will be on display until December 2015.



Iowa Summer Writing Festival – A Typical Day / 2014

I love to go to Iowa. Not just to glide past the flat lands of corn on I-80, or to roll along the miles of lightly forested hills on I-88, or, as a city dweller, to have the chance to drive my 2000 Beetle anywhere, or simply to savor a McD’s cone alongside the Mississippi River.

When I say I love to go to Iowa, I mean Iowa City, the home of the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Festival. Since 2001, I’ve gone eight times and taken thirteen courses, so I have my desired schedule embossed in my brain. For you to understand how my definition of why I love go to Iowa has changed, I’ll describe the way it used to be.

In the early years, my ideal day marched like this: wake up at seven, walk forty-five minutes along the Iowa River, eat a quick breakfast in the cafeteria at Iowa House—the campus hotel where I stay, hike a few-blocks uptown for coffee, race to the computer center to type up the day’s writing assignment I’d written late into the night before, sprint over to an author presentation from eleven to twelve, grab lunch anywhere uptown, hustle to a copy center to make eleven copies of my assigned writing for my classmates, attend class from two to five, grab dinner anywhere, attend readings at Prairie Lights book store or attend class functions from seven until eight, meet classmates at nine for ice cream at Whitey’s, drag in the dusk-filled evening back down the hill to Iowa House, organize my day’s activities on the spare bed in my room, drop into bed, write the day’s assignment longhand, turn out light, and snore.

Stay through the week’s course and take a weekend course too! Then, at the end of Sunday, drive home five hours.

Now, I know better. This was my typical day a few weeks ago. Wake up at nine. Eat in bed: cottage cheese, with either blueberries or cantaloupe, taken from home. Gaze at river view out my window. Say a prayer of thanks for being here.

01c80e7e981e29d0227b6e345b747d43e66eb8621bAmble to the eleven o’ clock author presentations. Decide: do I go to my right at a diagonal up through the Old Capitol grounds, or I do I go to my left straight up hill?

011e5973e9554560e3de6930c9cfdb379014059bccAlong the way, say hello to Herky, the University’s mascot dressed as a graduate.

019f4b1e7f93ad2912fd1108347249844b7296e53dSaunter to lunch with a friend. Marvel at the creativity on the park benches in the ped mall.

01f98beb1dd1a8abde18d044048ce6375054e6e2c7Sit in coffee shop and critique classmates’ work to be workshopped that day. Mosey a few blocks to the Shaeffer Building for class, lasting from two until five.

01afa781e5a791ae07c38e6966553ce29a9383f02eEnjoy the ambiance of the classroom where I am a student and not the teacher.

013d0a81026e219c54b674d25a01b5036b0f5bcde4Meet a friend for leisurely dinner. Amble over to Prairie Lights for an author reading or to class social functions. Stroll back to Iowa House, across the Old Capitol grounds, at eight.

01af52aca59913d4800398c0bcdc2278e9c5f74f12Read a book, a gift from my granddaughter, a text she’d read as a Calvin College student, Shouts and Whispers: Twenty-one Writers Speak about their Writing and their Faith (Eerdmans, 2006). Bask in the words of Frederick Buechner, Anne Lamott, Kathleen Norris, and more. Turn lights out by ten. Drift off.

After the week’s course, stay overnight. Drive home on Saturday. Stop at a Culver’s for a nutty fudgie sundae.

01e140af763ae18d34274ac43e0d9651a94f59ff40Try coming to the Iowa Summer Writing Festival sometime. Either pace is possible, depending on what course you take, how ambitious you are, and, I admit, how young you are.


Note: From 1840 to 1857, the capitol of Iowa was Iowa City, a city built specifically for this purpose. In 1857, the buildings were given to the University, and the Capitol was rebuilt in Des Moines.


Caring Lessons / Prairie Lights / Iowa City / 2014

Thanks to Jan Weissmiller, poet and co-owner of Prairie Lights, Caring Lessons: A Nursing Professor’s Journey of Faith and Self will soon be shelved in this much-loved independent bookstore in Iowa City.

01aca7fbdc5aeee0109516b0b91ce302f0a5149b98When I attend the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, as I did last week, I hang out at Prairie Lights between classes and evenings. You’d be there, too, if you like three floors of carpet to ceiling books, that wonderfully pervasive aroma of real-live paper and ink, a half floor of a coffee shop with chewy chocolate chip cookies, and authors of all genres giving readings.

The readings are broadcast on local radio and can be heard on the bookstore’s website. Tune in to find Sherman Alexie, Christine Sneed, Elizabeth McCracken, and many more.

After talking with Jan, I take a photo of the sign on the door. It’s too bad you can’t see  my heart hopping.

01ae0ff4b8b54dc402b8f5dac35764ff599f94aa8dOn another visit, I take a picture of the Health section where Jan said my nursing career memoir would probably be shelved. I find only one other memoir, one by a physician. Hers is alone on the bottom of the middle shelves. Will Caring Lessons share the space?

01aac15ea46e76016dea26063766bab409730090c2On yet another visit, I buy a T-shirt in muted blue that provides a calming background for Caring Lessons. Or a comforting reminder whenever I wear it .

01e240ae4e20d513120ca484efa986e0095e5faf58_00001Prairie Lights was started in 1978 and has managed to survive.  A year ago, Forbes said, “Prairie Lights in Iowa City represents the very best of the increasingly rare independent brick-and mortar-bookstores.”

I say Amen to that!

Click on a highlighted Prairie Lights above to lose yourself for an afternoon of bookish fun and inspiration. You will be happy you did.




Caring Lessons / Printers Row Lit Fest / Chicago 2014

Hey, everybody! Drop by this Saturday between 10 and 2 to see that Caring Lessons and I have finally made it to the Printers Row Lit Fest. Special pricing for the Fest will be $10.00 (normally $13.99). We’ll be located at the book tent labeled Y, as in Yes.

IMG_0428Ever since Caring Lessons came out almost four years ago, I have wanted to be a part of my favorite two-day Chicago event. So last year I asked a vendor, “What do I need to do to get here?”  A few weeks ago, I finally did what he said—join the Chicago Writers Association. Almost immediately, one of their members emailed that he had time periods open at his Rook Creek Books tent. So I purchased a 10 to 2 time slot on Saturday to display and promote the memoir of my nursing career, Caring Lessons: A Nursing Professor’s Journey of Faith and Self.

IMG_0424If you’ve never been to Printers Row, the neighborhood on South Dearborn between Congress and Polk use to be the center of the city’s publishing and printing industry. The first Fest, known as Printers Row Book Fair, featured 40 booksellers and attracted about 6,500 attendees. Now, 30 years later, there will be about 150 booksellers and 20 times the crowd, and will host more than 300 authors and presenters at various events (Printers Row, Chicago Tribune, June 1, 2014, p. 21).

Rook Creek Books is sharing the Y (as in Yes) tent on Dearborn, six tents up from Polk, with the Chicago Public Library and Sears Home Services.

IMG_0427So make your trip to downtown Chicago this weekend and immerse yourselves in all things books and authors and writing. I’ll be watching for you!


Read more about my experiences with the Chicago Tribune‘s Printers Row here.



Lois Roelofs:

My nurse practitioner friend, Marianna Crane, and I have a long history of dealing with issues of this kind and of sharing similar perspectives. On her blog,, Marianna serves as a much needed advocate for nurse practitioners and educator of the public. Please read on…

Originally posted on Marianna Crane:

For the life of me I don’t know why the New York Times published Sandeep Jauhar’s essay, “Nurses Are Not Doctors,” in the Opinion Pages on April 30, 2014. His essay argued that nurse practitioners shouldn’t practice independently.

As a nurse practitioner it’s obvious that I wouldn’t agree with his opinion but his case was lame. He cited only one study, which was published in 1999. It showed that primary care patients seen by nurse practitioners had 25 percent more specialty visits and 41 percent more hospital admissions than those seen by physicians. Not only was the study dated, it was limited in scope. Come on Sandeep Jauhar. Come on New York Times.

Jauhar further suggested we need more primary care physicians (true) and his solution to encourage graduates to go into primary practice rather than specialize was to increase salaries. Read Shikha Dalmia’s article in Forbes…

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