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When I was young, maybe eleven or twelve years old, I got a cactus. I named my cactus Mr. Bean and put it near the window of my bedroom. And it sat there, for a while, until it eventually died because I never remembered to water it. Let's back up here: I killed a cactus because I didn't water it enough. I killed a cactus, the one plant in the world notorious for not needing all that much water to survive, because I didn't water it enough. That's about how green my thumb is. In the years since, I've killed many plants. All of...

My November could be summed up in one word: bronchitis. Or, I suppose, one sound: a shrill, wheezing, growling, gasping cough. For the past three weeks I've done nothing but cough. It's something that hits me every couple of years: a cough that lasts and lasts, where I spend my days clutching my ribs in pain while hyperventilating on phlegm. It's not pleasant to be around me. It's also not pleasant to be me....

Twelve months ago I returned home, to Chicago, after three and a half years of traveling the world. Twelve months ago I returned to my old job, the one I held before I quit to travel, and picked up right back where I was before I left. Twelve months ago I returned, for first time in a long time, with a sense of permanence....

September. In Instagrams.   Goodbye, old friend. I got my first passport in 2006 when I was 25 years old. Now nearly ten years later my passport has seen me through 36 countries. Time to send it off for renewal! #passport #travel A photo posted by Val Bromann (@choosingfigs) on Sep 2, 2015 at 7:40am PDT I was really sad to let me passport go. But I had less than six months validity left and a trip to Thailand in my future. Sigh. I got my first passport in 2006, at age 25 and in that time it saw...

Every so often a dream team comes together. The Million Dollar Quartet. The 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team. The cast of The Breakfast Club. For all we know the 1945 Chicago Cubs could have been a dream team too. And maybe they could have gone on to be a dream team in 1946 and '47 and '48 or any other of the years in between then and now. And maybe they could have won the World Series that year and the next and the next....

Beer cap wall at Barcade in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. #arcade #bar #brooklyn #newyork #Williamsburg A photo posted by Val Bromann (@choosingfigs) on Jul 3, 2015 at 9:02pm PDT It's almost hard to believe that it was only four weeks ago that I visited New York. It feels like ages ago. Of course, it often feels like I've never left Chicago before at all, so there's that. I'll hopefully have several more chances to travel this year. I should have a car for a week next month and may take an extended-weekend road trip somewhere in Illinois...

Step 1: Don't Sign Up for an Eating Contest The first step to not preparing to compete in an eating contest is to not sign up to compete in an eating contest. I suppose you can apply this logic to most anything you might (not) want to train for: marathons, SATs, dog-obedience. Whatever. Just don't sign up and you don't have to prepare. Easy. For instance, I didn't sign up to compete in the Ribmania ribs eating contest at Ribfest Chicago this past Friday. To be fair, I might have tried to sign up for it if I hadn't have been been in...