The first part of my trip to Shreveport, LA was ... the actual trip. To save Action Division $150 or so, I decided to take an Amtrak train rather than fly. I'd done it before - it's long, but do-able. My train was set to leave Chicago at 1:45, so I decided to take the 11:40 South Shore from South Bend to Chicago, leaving me "plenty of time" - 45 minutes - to get from the South Shore station to the Amtrak station and onto my train.
But then the South Shore was late.
I've never had trouble with the South Shore before so I didn't plan for any delays. But as 11:40 became 11:45, then 11:50, and the train wasn't there yet - when it became 12:05 and we were just leaving - I started to realize I was in trouble. I spent the entire South Shore ride panicking, and calling Amtrak to see if there was any other train I could take to Shreveport, and calling Anne B. for help ... in the end, 1:45 came before I even got off the South Shore, and when I finally did reach Chicago, I just hauled my luggage out to the sidewalk and sat down on some steps, because I had no place to go. The next train to Shreveport would be a full day later. It was a pretty weird feeling, surrounded by hundreds of people I don't know, feeling tiny amongst these tall buildings, and just not knowing what I was going to do next.
But fear not, the Lord and the People of Praise will never leave me alone! Back in South Bend, Anne B. was calling everyone and their brother to figure out who I could stay overnight with in Chicago. And praise God! Megan F. is the daughter of Bill and Elena, good friends of Dan & Anne's, and she's also a fellow ND graduate. We'd met a couple times and she's a really neat girl. Within about fifteen minutes of my arrival in Chicago, Megan called me to tell me how to get to her apartment. Within an hour of my arrival I was settled in at her place, completely taken care of.
I made some calls to inform Action of my status, Patti D. said exactly what I needed to hear at that moment: "Are you SO FRUSTRATED? I wonder what the Lord's plan is in all this."
For the record - I don't think the Lord planned for me to spend 24 hours in Chicago. I think I planned things too tight and didn't leave enough time for unexpected circumstances. But once I reconciled myself to the fact that I was not going to get to Shreveport on time, I took Anne's advice to just enjoy Chicago, and once I made that decision, the Lord just threw delights at me.
Megan was going to be out for the evening so she gave me a spare key and advice on where to get dinner. It was a lovely night in Chicago so I strolled down the road, ate a delicious dinner out in the sunshine while reading a good book, visited a chocolate shop, watched a DVD at Megan's place, got a call from South Bend friends who just wanted to cheer me up, finished the book, and got a solid, lovely night of sleep.
The most precious detail of the evening for me, though, is that for several months I've been wanting to paint my toenails, since it's sandal weather, and up til I left for Shreveport I had been so darn busy that I hadn't had time. That had actually been my marker for myself of how ridiculously busy life had become - that it was late June and I didn't even have my toenails painted. So my unexpected visit to Chicago gave me that time. I stopped by a drugstore after dinner and then while I watched the movie, I painted my toenails a lovely red. Now that I am home, life is very very busy again, but I am so comforted by the fact that my toenails are painted.
The loveliness continued Sunday morning - I got to go to breakfast and Mass with Megan and we had lots of time to chat. She works with the disabled and I work with the homeless and we're both really interested in each other's work and in our different experiences working in the nonprofit world. It was so lovely - Megan was the perfect person to stay with.
Then I got back on the El, and got to the Amtrak station, and got on my train. Hooray!
The story of the actual train ride is much less interesting. I will say that one small downside to my lovely time in Chicago was that with one book finished, I had only one left for the 20-hour train ride, and it only took me three or four hours to finish. Boo! Fortunately while I was in Chicago I picked up a copy of StreetWise and it included a crossword and a Sudoku ... and since I am terrible at Sudoku that kept me busy for a long long time.
The Amtrak train was delayed too, due to the Midwest flooding, but that was OK. It took me to Longview, TX, then a bus took some of us to Shreveport, where due to poor sleep quality on the train, I became incredibly dismayed by the fact that we got dropped off someplace different then I remembered from my other train trip to Shreveport. But Susan H. and Joan P. managed to find me and take me to Allendale ... and that's where I will leave things for now.
Until the next time I find a moment to blog ...