Girls’ Guide to Living In Chicago

…by yourself, in the winter, with some dogs, a skunk, and a house built long before your parents were born.

Yes, this guide is designed for you ladies out there who (like me) find themselves completely alone in the Great White North (“coldest winter we have had in 37 years!”) while your boyfriend, husband, significant other, whatever, has abandoned you for warmer weather and a free place to stay. I mean why be bitter when instead of riding your bike to the grocery store you can instead be scraping two inches of ice off of your windshield and slipping down the front steps? (Note to all afore-mentioned males (MEB included): during this time don’t even bother arguing your case; cuz you just can’t win.)

shovelLesson One: Shoveling. This is a given. No matter how cute that little yellow house with the detached garage (that your significant other HAD to have for his precious little car) looked in September, it will prove to be a nightmare come January. (No electronic garage door opener you say? No worries! Just take an ice axe to it when you get home from work on a blustery January evening and it will open right up.)

You, the abandoned, have two ways of looking at the 12-14 inches of snow that now blanket your only route out of dodge and to the mall. One is that this shoveling thing is really great exercise. Eat whatever you want for breakfast ‘cuz once you are out there shoveling in sub-freezing temperatures for oh say three to four freaking hours you’ll have burned off all those calories and then some. No need to go to the gym today!

Option two, (which isn’t really optional) is the “guilt trip”. Chose a word, probably a bad word, which best describes the way you are feeling about your boyfriend at the moment. Use that word as you move back and forth along the driveway. You will barely realize what you are doing (you are so mad). Next proceed to tell your sob story to every neighbor that happens to walk by while you are out there shoveling. Finally, when that boyfriend of yours gives you a call while on his way to Tahoe to go skiing let him have it. Hey, if you’re miserable, everyone should be.

water thingy

water thingy

Lesson Two: Frozen Pipes. Even though your significant other insisted that you were being overly dramatic when you spoke of the -40 degree temperatures, remember that the Internet exists solely for this purpose and quickly direct him to where he can essentially ‘eat it’. With frozen pipes you are pretty much screwed. Don’t expect a shower anytime soon (contrary to popular belief this actually IS an issue for me) and melt some of that snow (that is now forming on the inside of your walls) for the dog to drink. Point your “heat dish” at the place where the water meter thingy meets the house (probably your basement?) and watch nothing improve. Give up and call your landlord to come out, rip out the wall, use a blowtorch, and get that water flowing again two days later. Repeat “guilt trip” from Lesson One.

Myles during the bird incident

Myles during the bird incident

Lesson Three: Animals in the house. (Aside from the domesticated ones that are actually referred to more as people now because when you live by yourself sometimes the only “person” you have to talk to is your dog.) With the temps well below freezing (still) assorted animals you wouldn’t expect to find in the city of Chicago will begin trying to seek refuge in your home. First you will see the birds. They will come shooting out through the chimney while you are at home on a Friday night watching 20/20. Your dog won’t notice you running around like a crazy person trying to get the damn bird outside because its after 9PM and he’s sleeping. MEB will tell you to open the door until he leaves. MEB is in California where the outside temperature is about 65 degrees. Resolve yourself to living with a bird until springtime.

Skunk Trap (note the dog on top is there to also scare off the skunk)

Skunk Trap (note the dog on top is there to also scare off the skunk)

Next, weird animals with claws will start burrowing in your walls and driving your dog crazy. While you fear it is an opossum or a raccoon you will surprise yourself when you are relieved that it is “only a skunk”. Soak one of your boyfriends’ favorite dress shirts in bleach and stuff it in the hole under your deck. Now because this requires you to actually dig out the 2-3 feet of snow that is currently covering the deck and then crawl on your stomach through a bunch of thorny bushes to do what should normally be a “mans job” you need to make sure you once again repeat “guilt trip” learned in Lesson One.

Lesson Four: Plunging. Yes, in the same way that I have been known to place aluminum foil in the microwave I also

Decorative Plunger a la Ma Self

Decorative Plunger a la Ma Self

accidentally flushed a paper towel down the toilet. Hey! I have a lot on my mind these days! Toilets in old houses don’t really respond well to these types of things and because the downstairs bathroom is the same temperature as it is outside I had no choice but to fix the upstairs toilet. Never once had I plunged a toilet before now (to be honest the toilet plunger I have is more of a decorative item…turquoise with brown stripes and a cute little clay animal on the top) and whatever I was doing wasn’t working. So, instead I took a mixing bowl, filled it will hot water, poured some dish soap in there and dumped in the toilet bowl (multiple times). I let it sit 15 minutes and then plunged. Worked like a charm. I don’t want to know why.

At this point you aren’t even involving your boyfriend in your issues anymore.

So yeah, those are a few tidbits from yours truly. Ma Self always said that when you were mad about something to just write it all down and you would feel better. I figure what better arena to “air my dirty laundry” then a public blog that is read by my co-workers, his co-workers and both of our family and friends, ok, well at least by my mom and Gia ☺


12 Responses

  1. I live 5 hours south of you, but I can SO relate! (my dear hubby is on a boat off the coast of Tonga right now). I had to shovel for 9 hours, AND also had the stupid frozen/busted pipe problem, though luckily it’s only in the barn.

    I hope however you broke your hand that it heals quickly and without much pain.

  2. OMG, I’m crying so hard. MEB is in deep doo-doo, isn’t he. This is exactly why I pay a man named Peter to shovel, blow, rake and mow things. Hubs is put to better use in the kitchen. 😉

  3. I Live in New Hampshire… and have lived thru almost all of these tho with cats and squirrels instead of dog and skunk! (plus 2 kids in diapers!)
    mine was “Daddy is in aGeneva, while we chase wild squirrel thru house and pick up its poo”

  4. OMG. You so precisely described why hubby and I moved out of NY and came to Austin, TX. Condolences!

    (S’pose you don’t want to hear that I’m sitting in the living room with the door to the patio open to get a breeze, because it’s too stuffy inside and absolutely beautiful outside, huh?)

  5. I am pissing myself laughing reading your blog – can totally relate. I have abandonment issues from when my ex-husband (note the ex) left me in 129F in Phoenix to battle flying roaches, lecherous old men neighbors and his FAMILY! Ugh!!!! my heart goes out to you, sugar!!!

  6. You’re freaking brilliant. Love it.

    You have a broken hand? What happened? Miss you!

  7. Wow, now this is funny. You should contact one of the late nite show guys and ‘sell’ this to them. No one would believe it but it sure would get a lot of laughs.

    Hang in there, spring is almost here.

  8. Nick,

    After what happened yesterday. Buy a ticket and get to Chicago this weekend. Surprise her. Show up on her doorstep on Friday. Take her out on the town.. Spend some money! That is what it is for.


  9. Angela,

    As full of humor as this is, I am waiting for your blog on your most recent advenrture. You may have to wait until you get used to the cast -although- where there is pain, there is creativity.

    Stay warm and teach Myles to shovel! He has had enough of a free ride.

    Love, Dad

  10. As always, very funnily written. You missed your calling as a columnist in some newspaper or magazine. (Instead you’re a tecchie?) Don’t know which magazine, though. Popular Mechanic? Cosmo? Chicago Tribune?

    I can also relate to the gist of your story with your own father. Only thefacts are different. Aside from shoveling snow, these include Connecticut and Maryland, tornadoes and floods, power outages, candles for light in a house which is 110 dsgrees anyway because there is no airconditioning, valves breaking on washing machines and having to shovel several inches of water off the kitchen floor…need I go on? I have more stories because I am older than you-all. I win, everybody!

  11. […] Angela Self While I am not totally ready to retract the ‘observations’ shared with you in ‘The Girls Guide to Living in Chicago’ (which may or may not have been slightly embellished as I am told I have a flair for the drama) […]

  12. Engaging page,, I will visit again=)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: