A Grace Full Life


It's Not THAT Kind of Cruise. Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter. Shoreline Sightseeing Giveaway.

Last summer, I was approached by Shoreline Sightseeing if I would be interested in going on one of their river cruises.
To which I replied, are you kidding me?? OF COURSE!!
Because I love me a cruise.
Sail the open seas, limbo until your thighs are Jello and all you can eat shrimp?? WAHOOOO!!!
This isn't that kind of CRUISE???


OK sure!!!

We had a great time and I wrote about my experience for Chicago Parent here so please read about it because I am quite proud of my Chicago Parent articles and I don't send you over there often enough.

So when Shoreline contacted me again this spring, I was excited!
For many reasons but the main one was that they liked me!
They really, really, Sally Field liked me in order for them to get back to me again!
I mean, isn't that how it works in the river cruise business?
I assumed because I wrote the Nobel Prize winning Chicago Parent piece that I did, that they were all, GET ME KARI WAGNER ON THE HORN ON THE DOUBLE!!


Honest mistake, really.

We decided this year to shake things up a bit and do the lake tour instead of a river tour since we did that up that last year.
We got to the boat dock, gave them our tickets and hopped on board!
The whole process is so easy but this is what you need to know before you go: allow enough time.
If you are going to Navy Pier, especially mid day or evening? GO EARLY.
Traffic can be kind of crazy at times, so by the time you find a parking spot in the garage, then walk to the ticket booth, you may be late.
So definitely make sure you allow yourself enough time.

courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Once you get on the boat, you can then relax.
Sit back and get ready to enjoy the ride.
Here is where I get to play Julie the Cruise Director from the Love Boat and try and sell you on the different cruise options that Shoreline offers.
There are so many cool ones to choose from such as Chicago architecture tours, classic lake tours (the one we are about to go on), fireworks tours, and they even offer water taxi service too.

There is also a bar on board, so you can get drinks if you are thirsty and they have chips too!
No shrimp.
Or bring your own.
That is probably frowned upon.
Because bring your own shrimp......yeah.
Never mind.

Now, let's get to the fun part!
Taking selfies!!
We have a few minutes before the boat departs so we have time.

I know I don't normally share pictures of my children on here but I am slowly breaking that rule, why, I honestly don't know.
But I love this one so much because look at that happy smile?
It was on her face the entire boat ride.
So this is why I broke the rule because damn if this isn't a happy picture.
Doesn't this want to make you go and buy a boat ticket??

Off we go!

You will get to see some amazing sights on this tour such as Navy Pier!
Of course that is because that's from where you will be taking off.
But you get to see it from afar now and isn't it so pretty???

Look at that skyline.
See how small the Ferris Wheel looks from far away?
Still couldn't get my butt on it.
Nopety, nope, nope.
I have no problem with roller coasters but boxes of metal holding you up in the air?
 By the way, the day after we were here, we found out that they are replacing the Ferris Wheel with a brand new and improved Ferris Wheel next year.
They are adding flat screen televisions to each car.
That is called staying at home.
Still nope.

Look at the pretty sailboat, the glistening lake...... can you just hear the sounds of the sea gulls and the lapping water?
Ahhh all of your troubles are far away at Navy Pier, at that pesky Ferris Wheel.
Still nope.

The pictures you will take are worth the price of admission of the boat ride.

These are all pictures I took on the boat ride, not pictures provided to me by Shoreline.
Oh and they were taken with my phone.

So I shared this next picture with my family and friends on social media.
I went into some detail about it but I wanted to share it here with you as well.
I love this city for so many reasons: State Street, THE FOOD, the cool movies that have been filmed here, the people.
But the main reason is because essentially Chicago was a matchmaker to my husband and I.
Our first real meeting was at the Taste of Chicago.
Our first date was at a White Sox game.
The first time he said he loved me was at the top of the John Hancock building.
We didn't go on a honeymoon but instead opted a few weeks later to spend a day walking around our favorite big city together, hand in hand exploring new neighborhoods and eating our favorite foods.
The city of Chicago is very important to our relationship.

So we are out on this lake tour, in the middle of the morning and our normally can't sit still second grader, calmly walks up to the railing, stops, leans up against it and pauses.

To look at this:

The exact building where my husband told me he loved me for the first time.

I looked at my husband and the tears just started to come right there at 11 in the morning for everyone and God to see and I told him, "this city, this city, it just holds so much of us".
It was a full circle moment that wasn't lost on me.
This tour was so special, I mean, I didn't learn that much about Chicago history on this particular tour but I won't ever forget this day.
I guess we will just have to go again.
Yes, I think we will have to do that.
Much better than a Ferris Wheel ride, if you ask me.
Because still, nope.

The great thing about Shoreline is that once you take off into Lake Michigan, you are free to meander around the deck of the boat to take pictures and take in the beautiful scenery.
It is perfect for kids who are wiggly, want to explore and in Ella's case who wanted to take pictures with our phone camera.
But it is just a really cool laid back feeling.
Here is a picture to show you that vibe:

People just hanging out and meandering.
Just being.
Not at all structured.
I love tours like that.
The river tour is a little more structured, has a tour guide, J.J. who was kick a#$ by the way.
I am still looking for him, not stalking per se but looking.
By the way, his voice is used on the lake tour.
My husband picked up on that right away because he still has a man crush on J.J. that lingers from last year.

By the way, Ella wanted me to make sure I added a picture she took that day into this post:

She also took this picture:

I swear we are good parents.

After the boat tour, we went into Navy Pier and decided it would be fun to be tourists for the day!

We had never eaten at Billy Goat Tavern before!
We will never eat at Billy Goat Tavern again!
Don't get me wrong, it was hilarious and fun for all ages.
But the food was just okay.
But you should go for the experience.
Have to say though, it was fun pretending to be a tourist for a day.
Chicago is a fun tourist destination!
Except for the Ferris Wheel because still NOPE.

And guess what??
Shoreline is hooking you up with four tickets to a cruise of your choice!!
NOT a Ferris Wheel ride!!!!


The last couple of giveaways I have held, I have had people try to enter by emailing me.
You need to enter via Rafflecopter.
If you do not, you are not entered.
Got it?
It is easy.
Trust me.
I need these giveaways to be fair to everyone that is why they are run through Rafflecopter.
I do not pick the winner, the winner is picked via random generator.
So then it is fair.
Just follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter app below.
Trust me, it is EASY.

Also, you need to comment in order to be qualified.
No comment? No chance to win.
I want to know what is your favorite thing to do in Chicago??

Here is the link to the different schedules that Shoreline offers.

The contest ends on Sunday night!
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Scooby Dooby Doo Has To Poo. Netflix Wants To Get Me Into Big Doo Doo.

I love to create blog titles that have the word poop in them, if you haven't noticed yet.
I also like to push the envelope with major corporations.
Not to be mean, of course.
Just to see if they really know what they are getting into with me.
Netflix is the shizzle.
They really are.
Because I was pulling this stuff last year and they kept me on.

So it makes total sense that I am writing inappropriately poop titled blog posts because this month, there are all sorts of cool retro cartoons being featured over on Netflix!
This will all make sense at the end of this post....trust me!

Titles such as Inspector Gadget!

Courtesy of Netflix


Courtesy of Netflix


Courtesy of Netflix

and my youngest daughter's current favorite, Scooby Dooby Doo!

Courtesy of Netflix

My oldest daughter never really went through a Scooby Dooby Doo phase.
Which saddens me a little bit.
Because Scooby Dooby Doo is a big part of my childhood.
It is a definite #TBT for me.

I have fond memories of getting off the school bus, running home, getting a snack and sitting in front of the television with my little brother and watching hours, er, I mean minutes of Scooby Doo.
After we did homework of course.

Ah the good old days.
When you could belch and fart and be happy.
When you didn't have to have to be busy all the time.
When you could play in the dirt and that could be considered an "extracurricular activity".
When nutty bars by Little Debbie and milk were considered a healthy after school snack.
Damn, I miss the good old days.

My brother and I even made up a theme song to Scooby Dooby Doo!

Let me see if I can remember it....uhh.....hmmmm....ohh yes!

Scooby Dooby Doo, where are youuuu?
I'm on the pot, reading Time magazine!

"On the pot" isn't code for "on the marijuana" either.

By the way, we got in big trouble for singing that loudly around the neighborhood because "that isn't appropriate" and "your father doesn't do that".

Please, my dad is lucky we didn't grow up in THIS generation or that song would end up on You Tube.

Yeah, I sure miss being little.
Relive the good old days by watching the classics with your little ones today!

I love you Dad!

I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. Meaning, for the next year, once a month I will be writing posts about how my family is using our Netflix. They provided me with a Roku and a voucher for my Netflix account.


When Life Hands You Lemons, Throw Them at Your Computer

I originally wrote this post the day before a coward walked into a church in Charleston, South Carolina and shot nine innocent people after worshipping with them for an hour in a bible study class.
He shot them because they were black.
My problems seemed so "big" on that Tuesday when I wrote this with big old tears in my eyes and anger in my heart.
And now, I am completely over it.
In fact, I forgot about my "problem" until my sweet seven year old reminded me of it yesterday when we were driving past McCormick Place in Chicago and I happened to mention that was where my blogging conference was held a few years prior.
She heard "blogging" and then said this, "I am sorry you aren't in that book anymore mommy ".

I had completely forgotten about it.

Something that four days prior had seemed so important to me, had washed away.
I am still going to publish this post though because I want to share this with you.
I share all of my stories with you, well most any way and this one is something I shared as one of my highs so I feel it is only right I share as a low as well.
But first, I need to share this as well.

I was deeply affected by the shootings in Charleston because I cannot stand by and watch racism affect our country and not say something.
I write a blog, I have followers and I am pretty outspoken.
I have a lot of friends who are black and I love them deeply.
I want racism to end.
If that means I need to write to a senator or share something weekly on my blog, go to a local bookstore or sign petitions, do whatever it takes to make it happen, I will.
I will show up.
I am not just full of air, I will stand behind my words.
I think those who know me, know that.
I said it on my social media outlets over the past week, if this is something you don't agree with, please know that hate is not welcome here.

I will share this article  that I shared on my Facebook page on Saturday.
I can't take the credit for finding it on my own, my friend Natasha shared it on Facebook but it is a wonderful article so please read it.

Now back to my pity party for one.

I say I am going to quit blogging on a weekly basis to my husband.
He always talks me down off the proverbial ledge.
But I threaten it.
I can't stand threatening it because it makes me actually have to think about not having it in my life and I don't like having to think about not having it in my life.
I love to write.
I might not be all that good at it in that I am not great at the word counts, the details, punctuation, the grammar.
But I have a hell of an amazing army of followers here at A Grace Full Life who I would miss the crap out of.
I love writing for you but honestly, I would miss writing for myself.
I write selfishly, most days, to get the ugly out of my soul.
It eats at me and to make me a better person, I need to write.
I fear I would become a very ugly human being if I stopped cold turkey.

But every once in a while, an ugly monster rears its head and it whispers to me, "you aren't good enough".
Today, it whispered to me after I received this email:

Hi Kari - we regret that we will not be able to publish your story in our upcoming book. After review by and discussion with the editor, we felt we were too heavy on delivery stories. We very much appreciated your submission and are sorry that we are unable to continue working with you on this project!
If you'd like to whittle down the essay to about 800 words we will certainly consider it for a paid guest post on our blog.

This book was "the" book I shared with all of you.
The one I was so excited about.
The one I was told to share, post on Facebook, tweet, about etc..
The one I thought was a "done deal".
I had been bonding with my fellow contributors for the past few months in a private Facebook group when all of a sudden this email arrived in my inbox.
When I went to the Facebook group after the email arrived, I had been removed without me knowing.

I likened it to being in love with a boyfriend and getting broken up with.
I didn't see it coming.
I was in shock.
With tears streaming down my face, I sent a shell shocked response saying things like "I feel like I was kicked out of the project" and "what do I even tell my readers??".
To which they responded:

Please know this decision did not come lightly or quickly. We went round and round about this not only with each other but with our editor. The piece needs heavy editing in content and we just couldn't make it work within the other pieces.
As far as your followers, we will leave that up to you. We realize you will need to do what is best for you and your audience. We certainly don't consider you being "kicked out of the project" and would never say as such. Ultimately your piece didn't work in the final draft. That is our call, not anything you did or didn't do with your writing. We certainly hope to maintain a professional relationship.

Your work remains your property and is attached.


There are many thoughts I have had since I received this email.
I have edited this post over and over since receiving it.
The first one is this: I am upset that I asked you to pre-order a book that you thought I would be in.
I am sorry about that, I guess I didn't read the fine print.
WAS there fine print??
I don't even know??? I am new to this.
I assumed that I would make the final cut, in fact I didn't know that there would be no possibility of me not making the book at all.
I would not think that they would tell me to tell all of my friends and family and my amazing readers about this cool opportunity for me.
Then in turn share the chance for you to pre-order a book that you think your family member/friend is going to be in and come to find out oh by the way, oopsies, she won't be in the book. NO SOUP FOR YOU! 
I think that is a shitty thing to do.
Sorry, it really is.
If you don't think it can't be edited to fit, then let's do this: DON'T SHARE THE NEWS UNTIL ALL THE EDITS ARE DONE.
I am a simpleton.
I am not a professional by any sense of the word like a lot of the others who got into this book.
So this was my "big break".
I was really excited and so were my family, close friends and a lot of my readers as well.
So you not only screwed me over, you screwed them over as well.

But here is the kicker.
After the dust settled and I got my piece back and read it?
I looked at it as if it wasn't as good at I thought it was originally.
It was like I was looking at it with a different set of eyes, this piece that I was so proud of months ago when I submitted it, all of a sudden was disgusting.
Oh, wait and did I mention that I also got turned down by another major website on the exact same day that I found out that I didn't get into the book that I was told I was definitely in??

Maybe it was the rejection that stung in my ears and my eyes as I re-read it that tinged my thinking.
I began editing it.
And re-editing it.
And editing it some more.
I wondered aloud, "how did they even pick my piece to begin with?"
Then I got even angrier.
They made me question myself and that made me even more upset than getting kicked out of the book.

Honestly, I am not so much embarrassed that I am not in the book.
It is that I am tired of trying to be something that I just cannot be.
I am a stay at home mom who loves to write.
I love to make people laugh.
Simple as that.
That is all it will ever be.
I won't ever pen the great hilarious novel.
I won't become the next Erma Bombeck.
I won't become the female John Hughes.
And that is OK.

Look, I save the good shit for THIS blog.
When other places I submit to ask for original content, I get all upset inside.
Want to know why?
Because I don't want to use the good stuff for them.
I want to save it for you.
Because I love you more than them.
And there it is.

You mean more to me than a paycheck.
I am.
Bloggers and writers all around me are laughing all the way to the bank and I don't have two nickels to rub together.

I am a great mom.
My kids are amazing and well adjusted.
I am happy being at home with them, well most of the time any way.
So maybe my best work is right here.
Maybe this just wasn't meant to be.

I bet Nora Ephron never went through this.
Pass me the damn lemons.




Chalk this blog post up to pre-menopause or why I won't ever get a book deal.
I can hear y'all NOT commenting now.
Blame Facebook yet again for me finding out about yet again another something or another that we need to be celebrating.
I didn't know there was a Sibling Day.
My brother actually texted me and said "I would have sent you a card?"
I said "I don't think it's an actual day, Matt".
Like, I think it's made up like when Hallmark made up Secretary's Day, Sweetest Day etc.
Don't quote me on that, it's not fact, its a "term" according to Wikipedia.
See, I even did research for you!

There is this website called National Day Calendar that has every national holiday known to man listed.
You got that right.
Every National Holiday known to man.
Not the big ones, the obscure, the easily missed, the little known ones.
The ones you forget to buy the cards for.
The ones Hallmark hasn't stocked ...yet.
Someone, somewhere is sitting in a little office making up holidays that we need to celebrate.
Bake cakes for, buy gifts for and eventually go to Hallmark and buy cards for.
Some of them are indeed pretty cool and some are interesting, but some?
Well, some are just not worthy of a day, quite honestly.

But I am saving you the trouble of going through each and every quirky holiday on the website by listing some of my personal favorites.
Unless you want to go and look for yourself.
To which I say, you really owe it to yourself to go.
Especially if you have some time to kill.
Like if you are in the dentist chair and getting a root canal?
Or say getting your taxes done and have a couple hours to kill?
Or the Kirby salesman is at your home and won't let you leave?
Because life isn't short enough.

courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

I started with my birthday, April 28th, which happens to also be National Blueberry Pie Day!
I love that a "pie day" falls on my birthday!!
That made me very happy.
So this research did start off on a very positive note.
But poetry reading also fell on my day and I am not big on poetry so you win some, you lose some.
There were four national "days" that fell on my birthday alone, this shows you how many things we "need" to celebrate nowadays.
So much pressure.

Screenshot courtesy A Grace Full Life

May 3- National Two Different Colored Shoes Day

I am not making this up.
I added the screen shot on purpose so you would believe me.
Actually, the shoes they show aren't even two different colors.
The meaning behind it is this: " to celebrate human diversity".
That is wonderful!
Not "two different color shoe day".
That is why no one on the planet knows about this holiday.
It's also why it's "unofficial".

courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

May 9- National Moscato Day

Now THIS is a holiday I can get behind.
Of course this "unofficial" "holiday" was created by, none other than the Gallo Family.

Screenshot courtesy of A Grace Full Life

May 9th is also National Lost Sock Memorial Day

I can't even.
Why are we.....

June 2- National Bubba Day

To all those nicknamed, or just called Bubba.
That's it.
That's my brother up there.
He was nicknamed Bubba many moons ago.
I've called him Bubby for years, my husband calls him Bubs and my girls call him Uncle Bubba.
He's a great guy and all and I am sure there are many a great brother/uncle named Bubba out there but do we really need an entire day dedicated to all the Bubba's out there?
One would argue that is considered a birthday?
Or if said Bubba was a dad, that would be considered  Father's Day?
Why a specific Bubba Day?
Why the need to clutter up the calendar with yet another day of celebration?
I don't mean to be a downer.
I love a good party and a reason to celebrate!
Any reason to break out the party favors and cake is a good reason to me but why all the added pressure in life to create all these "days" to our social lives?
And just like that I used nine "Bubba's" in one paragraph.
The Bubba algorhythms are like going cray somewhere.
I have no idea what that even means.

courtesy of pixabay.com

July 3- National Eat Your Beans Day

Why not make it July 4th and save a holiday?
Because we alllll know we will be imbibing on some kind of bean or another on July 4th all around the US of A.
Baked beans, baked bean casserole, bean salad, beans and rice, beans in a bucket.
I made that last one up but I am quite sure somewhere, somehow in this amazing country, that is being done.
Because beans are HUGE in America especially in the summer and especially on the 4th of July.
NOT on July 3rd.

courtesy of flickr.com

courtesy of pixabay.com

July 11- National Cheer Up The Lonely Day

Umm excuse me but shouldn't that be everyday???
I mean shouldn't we be doing that all the time not just one day out of the year?

So I was googling "lonely people" for images and many sad, sad images came up but the two above just stopped me.
The saddest thing I have ever seen, I mean come on...a teddy bear who can't face the day??
Kermit the frog, sitting alone on the beach??

 *SIDE NOTE of course I always use pictures on my blog that are labeled for re-use in case you are wondering
So that I don't get sued. Then end up lonely. *

courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

July 13- National Beans and Franks Day

Beans gets two damn days in a year??
What the muffin??
But mmmm beans.

courtesy of public-domain-image.com

August 3- National Grab Some Nuts Day

I wish I were making this up.
But of course I didn't think of those kind of nuts when I first saw this holiday.
Noooooo sirreee, I thought of something much more sinister.
But then the Internet sends me gems.
Little drops of Heaven.
Right into my little filthy mitts.

courtesy of flickr.com

Yep, that caption was there for everyone and God to see.
Yes you do  Mr. Squirrel.
Yes. You. Do.
I can't make this stuff up.

August 3rd is also my parents wedding anniversary.
No jokes there.
But August 3rd is also the eve of my husband's birthday.
National Grab Some Nuts Day is on the eve of my hubs birthday.....so many jokes, so little time.
Moving on.

courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

October 4- National Taco Day

Actually, this is our dating anniversary.
OMG it's like kismet.
Only we didn't have tacos on our anniversary but we DID eat at Chili's.
Nah, still not kismet.
Totally going out for taco's this year and maybe start celebrating National Taco Day instead of our dating anniversary since it's not "technically an anniversary you celebrate blah blah blah" after you get married.
But neither is "Grab Your Nuts Day" but don't tell that squirrel up there.

October 25- Chucky the Notorious Killer Doll Day

Yep, its listed.
Nope no one cares.

Screenshot courtesy of A Grace Full Life

I think when they got to November they just gave up.
Cook For Your Pets Day?
Deviled Egg Day??
There are a few good ones thrown in there.
Donut day, men make dinner day (which should not be a holiday IT SHOULD BE EVERY DAY, this must have been made in the 50s, nacho day).
Maybe the National Calendar people are starting to show that, they too, are human and are realizing that these holiday's are just too hard to keep up with!

Back to December.

Me circa 1985

December 8- Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day

I want to celebrate this and walk into a room dressed like me in 1985!
Totally freak out my children.
"Like, totally hi!"
" HAVE. "
"A. "
They would HATE 1985 me.
Kind of like having a foreign exchange student in the house.
Only with crows feet and really bad fashion sense.
December 8th....totally writing that on the calendar.

Maybe this is going to be fun after all.



The Day I Ran Away From Home

My husband's hours are kind of tough, those closest to me know this.
I am left to do most of the "dirty" work around here and it is exhausting.
This year has been hard with my menopause, headaches, the kids schedules etc.
So it has been challenging to say the least.
The past few weeks especially have been an uphill battle with homework, issues and plans reaching an all time high.
It has been tears, frustration, temper tantrums and just storms from morning until the lights turn off at the end of the day.
It was at one point that I literally turned my phone off one day after my youngest got off the bus and my teenager was safely home, that I just needed the world to be shut away.
I just couldn't "adult" anymore at that point.

Two days later, I left for Ohio.
I ran away from home.
To be clear, I asked my family to run away with me.
It was Memorial Day weekend and when I told my youngest my plans, she said, and I quote, " Aww, I was thinking we could just relax!"
You know, like she does 363 of the other days out of the year.

It was then suggested by my oldest that I leave without them.
Wait, what?
Really, I mean are you sure, I mean.......OKSOUNDSLIKEAPLAN!

Now, I am not one to run away from my problems.
But sh#$ got too real for me.
Normally, I never get to run away from anything.
But this time, I was allowed to get the hell out of Dodge.
With a hall pass.

I frantically threw clothes in a suitcase as I made sure it was okay that my 15 year old was SURE she wanted to watch my seven year old ALL DAY on a Saturday afternoon while my husband was at work while I was driving to Ohio.
"Yes Mom, GO!"
I quickly packed, kissed and hugged them goodbye, then left.
As I got to the end of the neighborhood, I had second thoughts and sent this text:

I miss my kids immediately after I leave them.
Is anyone else like that?
They can drive me NUTS then as soon as I leave them,  I immediately insanely miss them.
I wanted to turn around and take them to Target to get a slushy and something from the dollar spot and spend the rest of the day together.
But I knew that she wanted to do this just as much for me as I needed this weekend for myself.
And I really needed this weekend for myself.

UPDATE-as of the publishing of this we have indeed acquired the driving permit!!
And I have my first gray hairs.

As I finally started driving down the toll way, I felt like I was missing something.
It was this unfamiliar feeling.
Oh yeah.
That's it!
It was weird to have control of the radio station, the snacks, my thoughts.
It was quite unsettling, not going to lie.
Not as exciting as I thought it would feel.
Traveling alone wasn't as cool as I thought it would be, but I popped a mini donut I snagged from the kitchen table on the way out into my mouth, cranked up the Totally 80s and sped down 294 toward Indiana.

Once I get into Ohio, I immediately feel like I am 10 all over again.

I am transported back to the backseat of my parents Volare station wagon and I am a little girl.
Every time I see that Ohio sign, I am immediately a child and I am coming home.
I am back, my problems are few and I am loved, comforted and all is right with the world.

So here is the real reason I went to Ohio: my soul sister Vikki, one of the two dear friends who came out to save my soul this winter?
Well, her son graduated from college this spring and he was getting ready to move to West Virginia and I was worried I wouldn't ever get to meet him.
That is unless he comes to Chicago to cook for me because he is going to be a world famous chef someday.
Well, I needed to meet him before he moved away because this particular weekend was his graduation party/birthday party for his sister, aka my twin.
When her name isn't Bethy.
Or Bethyboo.
Had to go there.
I love her.
She completes me.

It was during one of our daily group messages, that it was suggested I should just come out that weekend.
Just go.
I am not a spontaneous person.
I made the decision to go 45 minutes before I left.
Because when people drive six hours to save a person's soul on a cold February day, well, they mean a lot to said person.
That person is me, by the way.
In case you were confused.
I have a way of confusing people.

Oh and Vikki had no idea I was coming.
I didn't mention that?
So there was that.

So those are my shoes in her driveway six hours after I left Chicago.
I took that picture after I got there, shared it to her Facebook wall and surprise.
It's good to be "home".

Ohio people sure know how to have fun.
They call "baggo" corn hole.
And they light fire to paper and call it lanterns or something or other.
These were so cool and it didn't catch a tree on fire or anything!!!

Some of the most fun people you will ever meet.
Also known as Cheech and Chong.
I haven't laughed so hard sober in my life.

Best bonfire I have ever seen.
By the way, it's not called a "bonfire" in Ohio.
It's called a "fire".
Sorry, us city folk call it a bonfire.
I've been away far too long.
Although I don't remember having "fires" when I lived there.
Unless it was an actual FIRE.
Then it was a PROBLEM.

I got to see my friend Rachel, who I haven't seen in years.
I met her beautiful family, got to see her gorgeous home and spend quality time with them.
It did so much for my soul on a beautiful Ohio morning, eating donuts and talking about our lives.
I don't think she realizes how much I needed that.
And how much I also need that Blues Brothers poster in their basement.
Then I got to spend an entire day/night with my family.
I got to jump on the trampoline, eat grapes on the porch.
I got to watch Paw Patrol with my little cousin and brush her hair.
I got to sit at the kitchen table and eat refrigerator pickles and talk with family about our lives and catch up.

                                                       I got to go to JB's and pet dogs.
And watch the Cav's play basketball and eat salami and cheese rolled up together.
These things meant everything to me, I inhaled it all, taking it all in.
Not wanting it to end, knowing it would.
And later, I realized, I got not one single picture.
Because I wasn't an observer, I was living it and it was delicious.
The next morning, I woke up and sat on the back porch in my jammies with my beautiful family and soaked in the last few hours together.
There was a hummingbird that kept buzzing by and I knew that my grandma was with us that day.
Long story and I will tell it someday.
My mom knows it.
It was so heady that I felt almost drunk with emotion, it feels so dramatic even writing it but I swear on my life it happened this way.
I will never forget this morning for the rest of my life.
I did think to take this picture:
Watching the birds eat from the feeder, listening to the morning sounds, smelling their coffee, and talking about our worlds.
 I felt like I could return to MY world a better version of myself.
I needed this weekend more than I ever realized.
Then I had to leave.
They sent me off with a lovingly prepared goodie bag for the road and of course, Jones Chips.
I love my family.
So much.
But I wasn't heading home just yet.
I had a stop to make.
Betsy's house.
For brunch.
Long story, long....
We were meeting at Betsy's house to watch the Memorial Day parade that morning in Lexington.
I was in the marching band all through high school, I have mentioned it here before.
I have marched that parade from the time I was in 5th grade until I graduated high school in 1988.
The Memorial Day parade in Lexington was a big deal back in the day.
Our local parade here in Illinois lasts 10 minutes start to finish.
I even said to my girls last year after it was over, "This is NO Lexington".
So I was ready to put my suburban Chicago Memorial Day parade's to shame!
This parade was the cherry on the run away from home weekend sundae!
I couldn't wait!

By the way, I could write a whole blog post about Betsy.
If I was a songwriter, I would write her a song.
Like Roxanne, only way less sluttier.
Only it would sound like Tom We'll leave the light on for ya  Bodett's voice.
Let's just say that Betsy is my hero.
And leave it at that.
She doesn't know this but she is in my will now.
I am worth NOTHING but I am giving her my collection of Bruce Hornsby's Greatest Hits 1985-1987.
It'll be worth nothing someday.
I'll even throw in a Taco Bell gift card.
Because I love her.

Back to Betsy's.
She made all of the above.
She is like Martha Stewart.
If Martha Stewart had a personality and a kick ass laugh.
I bet Martha doesn't have someone working on a song for her.
Or a Taco Bell gift card and Bruce Hornsby's greatest hits on the way.
Betsy doesn't know how lucky she is that I am in her life.
I am the gift that keeps on giving.
After an amazing meal, we got to hit the streets of Lexington for the BIG PARADE!!!!

That's me crying.
Because the mayor that was mayor when I was a teenager?
Is still mayor.
I couldn't believe time stood still.
Then I was like, OMG HE LOOKS OLD.
Then I realized, omg he doesn't recognize me because I look old too.

This is so much fun!!!
That's it??
10 minutes later.
Apparently, things change EVERYWHERE.
It was worth the six hour and forty five minute drive.
I love my family, my friends, my new friends.
This weekend was soul filling.
I don't regret a thing.
I do have to say, when my husband sent me a picture of my girls sitting at our parade while I was at a rest stop in Fort Wayne getting gas on the way home, I was heart sick.
I missed out.
I was so glad I went but maybe not on a holiday weekend next time.
Then I arrived home to my seven year old waiting on the sidewalk.
With a note.
And a teenager who ran out the door to hug me.
It is good for mom to run away from home sometimes.
But it is really, really good to be home too.


Go Roma or Go Homa. My Dad Will LOVE That Blog Title.

It is no secret that I love to eat.
So when I get the opportunity for free food, I take it.
I am all about being transparent here on the blog.
There are amazing opportunities I get with blogging that you don't see sometimes.
Do you realize that bloggers get emails, daily, sometimes hourly, from people all over offering them things?
Things like advertising for major events on my blog!!!
For free!!!
Or events in the city that I can attend on a weeknight without my children so I can pay a sitter lots of money and end up in the hole AND get absolutely NOTHING IN RETURN!.
Or offers like, would you please wire $500,000 to my friend in Sweden so he can live a happy life forever?
Yes sirree I am one lucky girl!
Yes, us small bloggers get cool perks!

Then something cool comes along like really awesome PR reps who say, Hey! would you like to come to an Italian restaurant for a free lunch this week? No strings attached.

Umm what did you say?

Don't say anything.
You had me at free.

I had actually heard of Go Roma before because I had their dessert with some friends.
We had eaten lunch at a different restaurant then headed in to eat dessert there.
It was amazing, so I was excited to try their actual food because I have a theory about desserts.
Restaurants who don't specialize in desserts usually don't have good desserts.
Don't you agree?
But you want something sweet.
So you eat it and you say, ok it's eh but by that point you don't really care because FULL.
But these desserts were so good....I mean GOOD.
So if you are a restaurant that doesn't specialize in the dessert and you can do it up?

So my husband and I headed out to their brand spanking new Glenview location here in Chicago for our free lunch!
We might have even skipped in the parking lot.
Okay, walked at a brisk pace.

First off, mad props to my PR friend "no strings attached" Bailey.
She even threw in a giveaway for you beautiful people.
BUT, big but, this wonderful establishment is only in Chicago.

Sad trombone.

Which only means one thing.
You need to come see me to eat dinner.
The decision is real easy, folks.

Isn't this place pretty?
Like it should be in a Pottery Barn catalog.

I mean really.
I want to move in.
Italian food and good d├ęcor?
It's like, they know who I am.
Go Roma has its finger on the pulse of Kari.
Bailey did her homework when she emailed me.

Worth the drive/flight/boat/taxi/rickshaw to Chicago.
Get your fingers ready to enter the giveaway, y'all.

I take pictures of green chairs and wooden tables.
What you didn't see were the people sitting at the table across from me, who I can assume were also there to get a free meal, staring at me.
Mouths open, meatballs a'rollin on the floor.
Doesn't everyone take pictures of cool chairs in restaurants???

Another reason to enter this giveaway is that not far from this restaurant location may or may not be some John Hughes movie homes.
The nerds house in Sixteen Candles.
And we may or may not have been working on another project at the same time.

This picture doesn't do this justice.
I also didn't take a picture of the calamari appetizer they brought out to us as well.
OMG it was amazing.
We didn't order it either but they just brought it out.
Don't expect that at your restaurant experience because this was a grand opening but seriously, order it.
Maybe we just looked like the calamari kind of people.
Or we looked really, really hungry.

My husband ordered the Chicken Parmesan and it was divine.
Wanna know how I know?
Because I do this endearing thing when we go to restaurant's where I eat off his plate.
In addition to eating my food.
Maybe that's why they brought the calamari to our table.

There are three locations in the Chicago area for my local readers:  Bolingbrook, Northbrook and Glenview.
You can go here for all the information because I know you want to visit.

So here comes the fun part!
Bailey has sent me a $25.00 dollar gift card to Go Roma to give to one of my readers!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

You have until Monday night to enter as I pick the winner Tuesday!
Good luck and remember, it is open to anyone!
You don't have to live in Chicago to enter BUT you have to come to Chicago to eat!
If you do, I will personally give you a tour of the nerds house.
I don't want to get us arrested.
At least not on the first visit to Chicago.
Good luck!
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