I wasn't totally sure what the plan for my birthday would be last week, and when I heard that we'd all be working in the evening on my actual birthday I felt a little bummed. I had imagined driving into Chicago with Dann for a fancy dinner. I had sent him a list of restaurants I thought would be fun in case he wanted to make a reservation. I even packed this dress.
Turns out Dann had a plan all along. We had pretty much all of Thursday off, so he schemed up a whole day spent exploring the city, which is really the best thing I could have asked for.
Since it was a bit rainy when we got up Thursday morning, we decided to drive the band van into the city instead of taking the train. We weren't totally sure about how much we'd have to walk if we went the train route, plus we figured the van would give us more freedom to really move around.
If only we'd known.
We parked on the street next to the Art Institute, paid for our three hours of parking, and headed to see the sights.
I looked like SUCH a tourist, I know. But I just couldn't help myself. I've always loved seeing the front of buildings like this one, ever since my 8th grade trip to DC. There's something magical about the beauty of this kind of architecture.
Once we were inside, it was like a time warp. Those three hours flew.
We left talking about how much we were certain we missed. We agreed that we'd add that museum to our list of places to hit up again if we find ourselves back in Chicago. It was phenomenal.
We headed back to the van, planning to get some coffee and move ourselves a bit closer to the restaurant Dann had chosen for dinner, then proceeded to spend approximately ninety minutes driving in circles around downtown Chicago.
Turns out, when you're driving a van that's 7'1" tall, there really aren't many options for parking. We drove past the front of Inteligentsia probably 10 times looking for street parking. Dann asked me to google the height of the van. My phone stopped working because it had too many photos stored on it. We argued about how high the clearance needed to be in a parking garage for the van to fit. We found a garage that we thought would work, only to be told "We don't take vans." We drove past the Mumford & Sons tour buses what seemed like a hundred times. Then it started to rain.
We finally decided to go back to where we'd been parked and come up with a plan. Dann said that, maybe, possibly, we might be better off just heading back to our hotel, getting some room service, and taking it easy. That's when I burst into tears.
I'm still learning how to deal gracefully with unmet expectations.
Dann was feeling pressure to make everything perfect, too, since we'd never been together on my birthday. He started to feel like he'd let me down.
I think it's these moments in marriage (in any relationship, really) that reveal who we are. We each sat in that van with a choice. We could have given up, stayed upset with each other, and gone back defeated. Neither one of us wants to be that kind of spouse, though, and most times (thanks to the Holy Spirit) we're able to humble ourselves and choose to fight the temptation to disconnect from each other.
So we apologized for getting frustrated and short with each other. We reassured each other that we love each other. We recognized the fact that the rain was stopping and that maybe sitting in the van together during the storm was the best thing we could have done anyway. We started to laugh about it, in fact.
Then we canceled our dinner reservation.
I remembered about this little place called Grange Hall Burger Bar that I had come across when I was researching restaurants in Chicago. It was far enough outside the center of downtown that we found a parking spot on the street a block away for a fraction of the price of a parking garage.
I tried a burger with an egg on it for the first time in my life and I have to say, it was the right decision.
We shared a slice of homemade blueberry pie for dessert and it felt like the best way I could have ever dreamed of celebrating my birthday.
THEN, because we were parked at a cheap two hour meter, we had time to trek back up to Millenium Park (and the bean) with a stop at Inteligentsia for coffee along the way. It was perfect.
The next day (my actual birthday), I started my gluten-free diet experiment. This meant gluten-free pizza at Lou Malnati's (It was gluten-free because the crust was made entirely of sausage. Yikes.) Then we found this fun little chocolate shop that had a delicious gluten-free chocolate cake.
And yesterday, a gift from Dann arrived from Amazon.
Do you need me to process any food for you? Because I can.
I have so many things to be thankful for as I start my 32nd year of life. I'm so glad I got to be where I was on my birthday. And even though not everything went perfectly as planned in Chicago, I got to be reminded of how great my husband is and how much I value our relationship. For me, it was the perfect birthday.