Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cracker Barrel Let-Down

On our way back from Michigan (hanging out with Jake and Emilie for the New Year), Carol and me stopped at a Cracker Barrel. Having never eaten at a Cracker Barrel before, I was somewhat excited to see what all the fuss was about. Here are some observations from my one (and only?) visit to Cracker Barrel:

1. It's a gift shop that happens to be a restaurant.
2. There's hardly anything on the menu that doesn't have meat.
3. All the food is roughly the same color: tan.
4. I didn't see any seating by fireside, as is advertised.

Needless to say, I wasn't impressed with my Cracker Barrel experience. I'll be okay if I never return. Any Carcker Barrel fans out there that want to defend the establishment?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Albany Park Neighborhood

North Park University and the Seminary that shares the same campus, is just north of the Albany Park boundary line. But my apartment is technically in Albany Park, which lands me in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the entire country. This morning I traveled south along Kedzie Avenue to run some errands. Every time I walk down this street I'm reminded how diverse the area is, and how much I am in the minority as a white person. I feel like I engage in a cross-cultural experience every time I walk to the bank, make a $2.95 falafel sandwich run, or get my hair cut by Shami, who immigrated to this country from Iran some 30 years ago (52.1% of Albany Park residents were born outside of the U.S. That's a lot!). And whites alone make up only about a quarter of the neighborhood's population. There are no trendy coffee shops, clothing boutiques, or hair salons in Albany Park (as far as I know!). But what you will find is just about every ethnicity represented and cruise to match. More than anything, what I've noticed is that Albany Park is a place where people actually live and raise families. It's not one of those trendy Chicago neighborhoods.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Just a Thought...

In addition to working at Trader Joe's, I babysit for a family with two children. Johanna is 4 (we're also birthday twins!) and Louie is 8. I enjoy doing it and I love the relationship Carol and I have with the family. The family is Jewish, and Lauren the mother, seems always willing to talk about her family's faith tradition and its customs. She also asks me about things related to seminary and serving a church. The overlap between our two Abrahamic faiths has been amazing to explore. Recently, Carol and I served with Lauren and Louie at a soup kitchen sponsored by their synagogue. And it got me thinking... A work of service is an incredible way of bringing people together, especially if people are divided along religious lines. What a great way to foster friendship and charitable dialogue to further deeper understanding and empathy. What if this same tactic was used to unite people of differing political allegiances? What if the U.S. Senate built a house for Habitat for Humanity or something before trying to vote on an important piece of legislation? Would this help to make things less divisive? Just something I've been thinking about. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Best Christmas Gift Ever!

This Christmas I received many generous, thoughtful gifts. However, one gift in particular stands out among the rest...


If you're still wondering what on earth Smittens are click HERE