I think we have a new tradition for the holidays here in Chicago. Spending a few moments to enjoy this tree and share a kiss with my husband made my day.

Christmas Bells.

I once dropped a set of kitchen glasses in the checkout line at J.M. Fields. We were on our annual Christmas shopping trip, which included a stop at the closest McDonalds for dinner. The closest Golden Arches was 35 miles away at the time, I was in my elementary years, and the cash registers on the McDonalds counter were made by GTE/Comp-Acct.

I remember the stupidest things.

My dad would take the four of us Christmas shopping once a year; he always wanted to shop at Central Tractor, but he would take us to a discount department store as well. In the early years it was Grants, but that one particular year it was J.M. Fields. I wanted to buy my mom a set of kitchen glasses. They had brown and yellow flowers painted on the side, but I dropped them when I was putting them on the checkout counter.

I was mortified.

We may have shopped at different discount department stores during the single digit years of my life but one thing that was a constant was the excitement I felt when the village DPW put up the Christmas decorations on the lamp posts in the “downtown area”. I grew up in an Upstate New York town with a population of around 2500. The village, which my mother called “downtown”, was possibly three blocks of store fronts. At the time power lines lined the Main Street, which was actually called Jefferson Street. During the holidays the street light poles were adorned with simple Christmas ornaments, usually big red bells with a 150-watt light bulb in the middle. On the corner was a candle or wreath covered in tinsel. The ornaments had a ’60s vibe to them and were simple. I was always excited when the ornaments went up around Thanksgiving because it meant Santa Claus was coming to town.

I was watching a Hallmark Christmas Movie earlier this evening. It was set in a small town where a big city executive came back to her hometown and she found the spirit of Christmas when the big tree lighting ceremony took place. I recognized the smiles and happiness the main character felt when the tree lighting took place in tonight’s movie, I always felt the same way when the bells went up on the lampposts.

Holiday street decorations are very sophisticated in the big city. There are glittering balls hanging over the streets and twinkling lights adorning great big, excessive displays. But that’s really what the holiday shopping has turned into, right? Big, grand gestures meant to impress.

I miss the simplicity of the red bells with a 150-watt bulb giving them a warm glow.

I was out for a walk this evening and one house, a few blocks away, had an outside display along the fence that lined their yard. The Christmas lights were the older “Merry Midget” incandescent miniature Christmas lights. You could only string two or three of these sets of lights together without blowing a fuse. The harsh, impersonal glow of LED lights were nowhere to be found. These lights were warm, inviting, and quietly suggested, “Happy Holidays”, in yellow, blue, green, red, pink, and gold. If one of the lights had been replaced with a white bulb with a red tip, the entire string of lights would have flashed in unison. No need to twinkle, just blink.


I miss the excitement I felt about the holidays as a kid. Today there’s so many commitments and commercials and pressure to buy the right gift for our loved one. As an adult money is a never-ending concern. “They know what I make, will they be impressed with a scarf?”.

I want the stress of the holidays to just go away permanently, and I want to be in awe of a simple red bell, lit by a 150-watt incandescent bulb, hanging from a street lamp.

I want a simple holiday with family and friends. The rest is just unnecessary.

Conversational Points.

So what are we suppose to talk about today?

  • The Dow Jones and NASDAQ in a free fall?
  • General Mattis resigning as Secretary of Defense
  • The looming shutdown of the United States Government

So much winning.

RIP Penny Marshall.

Penny Marshall passed away last night. She was 75 years old and had been struggling with diabetes. Most famous for her role as “Laverne” and ABC’s “Laverne and Shirley”, Penny was also well-known as a movie director for famous films like “A League of Their Own” and “Big”. I always loved how she moved to a version 2.0 of her entertainment career with her roles behind the camera.

About a month ago I watched several interviews with Penny on YouTube. She’s was a little eccentric, wicked smart, and a creative person through and through. Her talent will be missed.


I can’t remember enjoying such beautiful weather for Christmas shopping. It’s nearly 50°F for the second day in a row here in Chicago and with less than 10 days until Christmas, that’s pretty remarkable. I’m loving this weather and it’s really brightening up my mood.

For the past 10 days I’ve been battling one of the worst colds I’ve endured in my adult history. From sinus congestion to coughing and wheezing to days and days of diarrhea, quite frankly I have felt like crap for over the past week. I managed to get through a week of work, one of the “perks” from working at home, I guess, but I probably wasn’t as productive as I should have been.

Luckily, once I abandoned cold remedies and sprays and mists that were suppose to lessen the effects of a cold, I started feeling like I was on the mend again. I’m feeling markedly better versus 48 hours ago.

I am dead certain the warmer temperatures and sunshine is helping the situation.


I flew my biennial Flight Review yesterday. A requirement for private pilots, every two years we must fly with an instructor to make sure we still know what we’re doing, we know the latest changes in regs, and we can still handle the aircraft in a safe manner.

I took the opportunity to fly with my friend Chuck in 32J at KRME while we were in town for the holidays. I hadn’t flown the ’66 Cherokee since July 2017. It felt very comfortable as soon as I started the prop.

I was a little rusty on a couple of maneuvers but I figured things out. I had three great landings and I was smiling the entire time.

Flying in the Chicago area brings different challenges versus flying in Upstate New York but it is still very much enjoyable for me. We’ve been talking about pilots becoming “av-gry” when we don’t fly enough. I hold that belief to be quite true. If I don’t fly as much as I’d like to I can be quite cranky.

Let’s hope Mother Nature shows mercy for us private pilots this winter.

Here’s a photo from my flight as I was practicing an engine out emergency decent.


The numbering scheme of the checkouts at this Best Buy really makes my eye twitch. Behind register 10 is register 3. Behind register 2 and to the left of register 12 is register 9.

Indiana Toll Road.

The Indiana Toll Road has a split speed limit for cars and trucks. The limit for cars is 70, the limit for trucks is 65. This encourages unnecessary weaving, creates backups behind trucks driving slower than the flow of traffic in the left lane, and subsequently increases tendencies of road rage.

The Indiana Toll Road is also a fan of bunching up construction areas so that vehicles are pushed into one lane at a reduced speed for dozens of miles. This even happens outside of “construction season”.

As a traffic engineer I can not determine a valid reason for the split speed limits. It does not increase safety and it does not improve traffic flow.

It generates revenue.