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Rachel Friedman, contributing blogger

A transplant from Cleveland, Ohio, Rachel has lived in Chicago for over five years and is in denial of the fact that she’s essentially a permanent Midwesterner and will never actually escape the perils of winter for a warmer climate.

Rachel recently left her nine to five gig as Director of Volunteers and Outreach at The ARK, and she is now entering the world of stay-at-home mommyhood with baby Colin Harrison, born in May 2012. When she’s not organizing play dates or singing her own original nonsense baby talk songs, she volunteers as a member of the YLD Board at JUF, explores Chicago on foot on long walks – sometimes with puppy or stroller in tow, tries new recipes and restaurants, scrapbooks and dabbles in all sorts of crafts, and watches an inordinate amout of bad television.

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During my daily web surfing, I stumbled upon this article on the JTA site, called How to Retire Happily.  No, I’m not retiring at the ripe old age of 24, but out of curiosity, I clicked to check it out.  Surprisingly, what I read really resonated with me.  Whether you’re 65 and moving to Scottsdale or 23 and moving to a new city, the advice remains the same.

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On October 7, 2007, I went from being a ”son” to a “man.”  If you’re looking at my picture right now, you’re probably thinking, “What is this crazy girl talking about?!”

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This weekend, you won't find me at any of the many street festivals or pub crawls.  I won't be celebrating birthdays with friends at the bars or shopping on Michigan Avenue.  Nope, this weekend you'll find me painting the town pink with the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.

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If you’ve been following along, (see Walking to save “The Girls,” Part I and Part II), you know that the four of us, Team Motorboat, have been “training” for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and last weekend, all our hard work paid off when we crossed the finish line after walking nearly 40 miles for boobies! Since you couldn’t all walk along with us (you lazy bums, you!) enjoy some of our favorite highlights from the weekend…

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It seems like the whole world is really into “going green” these days.  Everyone from Jewel and Walgreens to Bloomingdales and Barnes and Noble is selling their own reusable bags, hybrid cars are hitting the streets at rapid speed, and the new Whole Foods at Sheffield and Kingsbury has Chicagoans salivating at the idea of buying organic (even if it’s just an excuse to see this shrine to deliciousness – it’s unreal!).

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“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone?”  Joni Mitchell must have been reading my mind.  Ok – so I wasn’t quite born yet when she wrote it, but she certainly said it right.  I’ve lived in Chicago now for three years.  I’ve been to the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium.  I’ve meandered through the Lincoln Park Zoo, sunbathed at Oak Street Beach, and mastered the maze of bus lines and El tracks.  I’ve drunken my fair share of beers at the weekly street fests, seen the planes whiz by at the Chicago Air and Water Show, and witnessed the spectacle that is Flugtag – Red Bull’s flying machine contest on the shores of Lake Michigan.

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I hate water.  I don’t love drinking it, I’m not a swimmer – not even to cool off while sunbathing – and as my college roommates can attest, I went through a phase where the shower and I were basically frenemies, interacting only when absolutely necessary.

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Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match! Hey Oy!sters, it’s your friendly neighborhood matchmaker here – ready to make your dreams come true. Wait…I hope you’re not expecting me to find you a boyfriend or girlfriend. That’s not quite what I’m referring to. I am a professional volunteer matchmaker. I am here to help you find the perfect volunteer project.

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It never fails that on December 31st, I sit at my computer with a document that looks something like this…

1) Actually go to the gym – at least 3 times a week
2) Stop eating so much chocolate at work – enough is enough

Some Marriage Advice for Khloe Kardashian photo_th

It’s been a busy few months for me.  And for Khloe Kardashian.  It seems like we have a lot in common.  Khloe moved to Miami and started taping a new reality show.  I moved to Evanston and entered the business school world of theme parties.  I have nearly half a dozen friends and colleagues who are pregnant, and of course, Khloe’s sister Kourtney is knocked up with her dead beat boyfriend’s love child.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas photo_th

This Sunday marked the end of daylight savings time, the first day of November, the first day after Halloween (a tough one for many of us), and… the first Christmas commercial.  Ugh.  There I was, curled up in bed hoping to enjoy a lazy Sunday of Food Network, football and grocery shopping, and lo and behold, the first commercial to interrupt Sandra’s Money Saving Meals was for Crayola’s new products – “the perfect gift this season”.

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Once upon a time, about three months ago, I wrote a post on this very blog about how silly it is to wait until December 31st to start making resolutions for the New Year.  Way back then, my plan was to find a meaningful way to give back to the community.  And I did – sort of.   But today, I’m back to my original quest, and I suppose that quest is for self-improvement.

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Have you ever woken up and just known that it was going to be a rough day?  I have, and today was it.  There are some days when the alarm goes off, and even after hitting snooze no fewer than four times, you just can’t seem to wake up, and even a shock of cold water in the shower doesn’t snap you out of it.

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It never fails that by the end of February, I am stir-crazy and absolutely fed up with winter.  I am sick of scratching my dry skin to death and watching my face get paler by the minute.  My motivation to leave my warm couch to venture out on a Saturday night dwindles more and more, and my gloves and earmuffs seem to be staring at me, taunting me with a never-ending winter that shows no sign of abating.

My Spring Break Sushi Tour of Chicago photo_th

‘Tis the season for spring break.  Left and right, nearly everyone I know is heading somewhere, whether they are graduate students heading on exotic vacations or colleagues leaving town for Passover to avoid the stress of de-chametz-ing the kitchen.

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It is a rare occasion for my husband and me to find a movie that we both want to see. I drift toward the art house films and romantic comedies, while David prefers movies that highlight blood and battle, gangsters and gore (I am biased…I know).

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I am a professional Jew.  I mean a Jewish professional.  Or both.  I have spent the past three and a half years working for Jewish communal organizations that do incredible work to help members of the community locally and overseas.  And while this sort of work isn’t for everyone, it has been a natural fit for me.

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This morning, I woke up, and my eyes literally did not want to open.  Not out of exhaustion, but because they were so uncomfortably dry.  I attribute it to a combination of excessive A/C to combat this overbearing heat and my LASIK surgery 18 months ago.

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My grandma is the strong and silent type.  At least she tries to be.  When we take my grandma out to lunch (more like she takes us out – she never lets us pay), she typically remains quiet while we fill her in on the latest family gossip and share the details of our lives.

We’re the book club photo_th

I’m a reader—I always have been.  I grew up thoroughly entrenched in dork-land, not stirring up trouble in standard pre-teen fashion but instead pissing off my parents by staying up into all hours of the night with a flashlight under the covers.

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It’s outrageous to wake up on the morning of December 3, having only had two days of below 30 degree weather and one light dusting of snow, and realize that tonight is already the third night of Hanukkah…craziness, right?!

Happiness is… photo_th

Winter. Ugh. Still here. Snow. Slush. Nearly freezing temperatures day after day (after day after day, etc). Never ending. Blahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

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I love Facebook. But I also kind of hate it. One of my “friends” on Facebook—a girl from my college sorority who I have not seen or spoke to for over six years—posted something this week that really resonated with me and really got me thinking about whether Facebook is something positive or negative in my life and the lives of others.

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Last night, I witnessed one challenge that I will never choose to take part in. Ever. They called it the 999. Nine innings, nine hot dogs and nine drinks.

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It’s Tuesday night. I’m home alone all week for the first time in our new apartment. On one hand, it’s peaceful having the whole three bedroom place to myself—no one to cook for or clean up after, no one to check in with before making impromptu plans. On the other hand, it’s a bit eerie being alone in a new apartment, especially when you’re still getting used to the building and neighborhood noises.

New puppyhood and parenthood photo_th

For those who follow my posts on Oy!Chicago, or if you’re forced to see my Facebook newsfeed photo-fest (sorry friends), you know that we recently made a life-altering purchase. No, we’re not new homeowners. We got a dog.

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I LOVE the holiday season. I love the festive feeling you get when you're making your Thanksgiving menu or listening to holiday music when out running errands. I love the smell of turkey roasting in the oven and of the latkes my dad would fry every year in our garage (because heaven forbid the smell permeates our home - you know that never comes out).

Why I’ve been radio silent lately… photo_th

Hello, Oy! readers. Long time no see. In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been a bit radio silent for the past…nine months or so. The past many months have been transformative for me, going through nine months of pregnancy (and a bonus two weeks…yay for late babies…not) and the birth of our beautiful little boy almost three weeks ago.

Colin's First Mitzvah Project photo_th

Before having baby, I spent five years working in the non-profit sector as a volunteer coordinator. Over the course of those many days and weeks and months working with wonderful, kind-hearted volunteers, the one inquiry that always blew me away was when parents with infants or toddlers wanted to volunteer.

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Birthdays are a funny thing. As a kid, you count down the days. You obsess over who is and isn't invited to your birthday party. You boast to be eight and three quarters, because it's cooler to be a teeny bit older than your friend who is eight and a half.

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Creative crock pot recipes. Inspirational quotes and nursery decoration ideas. A window in on what friends have in mind for their weddings. Helpful housekeeping hints, fabulous fashion finds and a hundred of the best ways to hang a photo collage on the wall.

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I always feel like Hanukkah sneaks up on us. With all of the hooplah surrounding Christmas—the decorations, the commercials, the transformed radio stations devoted to playing Christmas music round the clock—it's easy to see how Hanukkah and it's eight twinkling lights can get lost in the shuffle.

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It's been really hard for me to wrap my head around what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School less than a week ago. Normally, I'm one who takes note of these horrific stories and then tries to shut them out of my world, avoiding the news so I don't internalize the hurt and suffering.

Baby-friendly Judaism photo_th

This year, instead of throwing together a list of resolutions I'd promptly forget or break, I made a handy "13 Goals for 2013" list, which I've plastered all over my house and lodged deeply into my brain (and my blog). One of my ambitions in 2013 is to find ways to incorporate Judaism into Colin's life in baby-friendly ways.

'The days are long, but the years are short'  photo_th

Many wise mothers have shared this saying with me, and yesterday morning, it really rang true: "The days are long, but the years are short." It was 7:30 a.m., and Colin had already been awake for two hours. Ugh.

Lessons of flexible parenting photo_th

It's raining, it's pouring, and my little guy is in the back seat snoring. We were out running errands before nap time, and of course, less than a mile away from our house, his eyes, already droopy, collapsed shut. Parents out there know the conundrum I'm facing: waking him now will spoil his regular nap for the day, but staying in the car means...I'm stuck in the car. Oy! indeed, Chicago.

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I know that for many 20- and 30-somethings, it seems like everywhere you look, people are having babies. Pregnant women are swarming Chicago’s streets, and you can’t glance through your Facebook newsfeed without seeing a new baby (or five).

Tips for Volunteering this Holiday Season photo_th

I love the holiday season: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Chanukah; the music, the food, the presents, the traditions. One family tradition that I hope to maintain in our home is that of giving back.

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It’s not like there was a magical place to show up and be introduced to people who are in the same stage of new parenthood as you...but what if there was?



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