Friday, December 31, 2010

Day #8165 - Another Year Ends

I don't really know why, but it seems like the general consensus is that people are more than fine with seeing 2010 come to an end. I suppose that overall I would be part of that faction as well. Now don't get me wrong- I am incredibly aware and grateful for the many blessings I have had this year, but I'm also feeling very good about keeping my eyes forward for what 2011 has in store for me. So now, without further adieu, I'll be doing a quick look at 2010's many events in my life.

January - Along with a new year, January brought the start of my adventures in student teaching at Hersey High School. Little did I realize how much my sophomores and seniors would come to change my life over the next few months, in many ways for the better.

February - My 21 1/2 birthday and a trip to the Chicago Auto Show on Single Awareness Day.

March - Spring break road trip to St. Louis with Gail was full of fun times. When I got home, Addison Lynn Rae Fumarolo , a Maltese-Poodle mix, joined our family.

April - Right now, nothing is jumping out about April. I assume it's because I was probably up to my eyeballs in grading and lesson plans.

May - I find myself sad to be saying goodbye to my students and my role as their teacher, but am excited to graduate from college! BA in English, minor in secondary school teaching, and countless memories.

June - An event 49 years in the making, the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in overtime during game 6. The sounds of "Chelsea Dagger" filled the air as the cup made its way around. I got to see it for myself in the Elk Grove parade.

July - My adventures in graduate school begin as I start my 2 year journey towards a masters degree with a 10 day class/bootcamp on campus in Champaign, IL. The Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the #1 program in the US and has an online program that I'm proud to be a part of.

August - My dad's side of the family takes a memorable vacation to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas aka Hotlantis. Also, I turned 22.

September - Into my first full semester of grad school with a full time course load, I ran the Blackhawks Training Camp 5k and possibly maxed out on my limited athletic ability for the year. But it was so much fun to hang out with friends and the shirts were great!

October - Made my way down to the UC for my classes' on-campus weekend. Fun times with friends and acting like a 22 year old with a social life was great. Not to mention the quack attack was back as I reprised my Charlie Conway Halloween costume for the 2nd year in a row.

November - Fall break and the holiday season finally arrive and with much hard work and dedication, I regain the ability to touch my toes. The final Harry Potter movie part 1 comes out and blows my mind (along with the trailer for Cowboys and Aliens).

December - Semester 1 is complete and a complete success! Finish my final projects, spend time with family and friends, and my first Blackhawks game cap off the year. To my delight, we had a white Christmas and got to see the lights downtown.

And there you have it! My year certainly had more going on than that, but these are some of the things that seem to stand out as I look back. So here's wishing everyone out there a very happy new year in 2011. Be safe, be positive, and may nothing but good things come your way. :o)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day #8155 - A Very Snowy Solstice

Well we have finally arrived at one of the most hectic weeks of the year socially, emotionally, and (unfortunately, commercially) financially. With Christmas being on a Saturday this year, it brings about an interesting mindset. It reminds me of a typical work week - everyone with the focused goal of just making it to this weekend and knowing they'll have Sunday to use as a time to recover from the food-coma that may set in.

This first full week off from school was bliss - I actually feel caught up on sleep, I went out and had fun times with good friends, and it still looks like a winter wonderland. I know that not many people who live in the midwest are necessarily fans of the snow and cold, but I love it, and I'm of the mentality that if we do live in a place where it does get so cold, it better look beautiful at the same time. I don't want to see the grass until the end of February. Though we have been dealing with below-freezing temperatures for a while now, today is actually the first day of winter. Happy Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year! From now until June, the days will start getting longer. I am a huge fan of all things solstice and equinox related, so I am excited that today is finally here.

So in case I don't have a chance to write again before the weekend and all its crazyness is upon us, here is wishing everyone a very Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy Solstice. :o)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day #8148 - Oh The Weather Outside is Frightful

And not just the weather, either. Life seems to be in chaos-mode, full force lately. I haven't been able to write here in a while because last week all of my finals were due, and I can now happily say that I have finished my first semester of grad school. All in all, I think it went really well. A bit overwhelming at times, but I really was interested in most of the material, which always helps the time go by faster. I thought semesters flew by in undergrad, but at least those were broken up by sorority dances and football games and weekends going out. Living and taking classes at home kind of made this fall semester go by in one big blur.

Unfortunately, even once I did have the time in my schedule to start blogging again late last week, I didn't feel like I had much to say (or really, had anything I wanted to share with the rest of the world). They've sort of been black cloud days you could call them. Our fence was blown down by the crazy wind a few days ago - this is now the 2nd time in 4 months and since it's so cold, there's nothing that can be done about it until spring. And that's just the tip of the iceberg with things going wonky lately. It's sort of felt like the entire world has been turned upside down.

But then I got to thinking about the most recent episode of Bones. Not one of my favorite episodes, mind you, but there was a metaphor they used in it a few times that I really like. A while back, scientists invented a pair of glasses that turned everything people saw through them upside down. However, after three straight days of wearing the glasses, the brain turned the images right side up. Then when people weren't wearing the glasses, the world looked like it was upside down and it took another three days of being glasses-free for the world to right itself again.

So I guess what I'm saying is that it's easy to get lost in the chaos that seems to inevitably come with the holiday season, whether it's related to the holidays or not. But the important thing to try to do, if you can, is to take a step back. Close your eyes, try to take a deep breath. Things may feel like they can't possibly get any worse, but in time, with some luck and belief in the power of positive thinking, I honestly believe that the world will right itself again. It may not look or be exactly the same, but you'll be able to tell up from down. There is a British poster from WWII that reads "Keep Calm and Carry On" - I suggest we try. In time, things will get better. They have to.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day #8140 - Yule be Singing About What?

The sounds of the holiday season are in the air. Literally. If you're in Chicagoland, just tune into 93.9FM for all your Christmas, holiday, and snow-themed songs of the season. Now I love winter and I love Christmas carols, but you can't deny that some of them are a little brow raising. So let's start off with Monica's Top 3 Creepy Christmas Carols

3. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Am I the only one bothered by this song? Especially in the version that sounds like a little kid is singing, almost proudly declaring that he's witnessed his mother cheating. I know some people might argue that in today's society with 50% of marriages ending in divorce, maybe Mommy is single and ready to mingle. But the lyrics clearly bring up the question that Daddy could walk right in at any moment. And what about Mrs. Claus, eh? Some sailors would brag about having a girl in every port, but poor Mrs. Claus could very well be married to a man with women all over the world.

2. Santa Baby
This song kind of reminds me of when Anna Nicole Smith was still alive and married to that millionaire who looked about 100 years old. While it's not uncommon for women to be attracted to older men, but I mean, this song just makes me go "ew." It's skeevy! I hear this and just think, "This girl must have some serious daddy issues" and that if Barney Stinson were real, he'd be taking advantage of her in a heartbeat.

1. Baby It's Cold Outside
Oh how I both love and get mildly creeped out by this song! I love the duet, it's incredibly catchy, and it just screams Rat Pack to me. But the lyrics do have a little bit of a "hey, wait a minute" feel to them. Girl needs to go, boy seems to be concerned for her safety and the fact that it's freezing, girl accepts another drink before she hits the road, girl realizes boy roofied her drink?! Okay maybe not that extreme, but I can easily see the girl coming home the next morning, makeup smudged and hair disheveled, asking her mother to stop yelling because she's got a hangover and is in desperate need of aspirin and some strong coffee. But unlike the other two songs, I'll happily sing along with this one because it's so dang catchy!

Honorable Mention: The Christmas Shoes
Now before you think I'm a horrible person for putting this on my list, let me explain. This song is actually very sweet, telling the story of a poor boy who wants to buy a Christmas present for his dying mother. However, me and some friends in high school believed this was just a cover story and made up an alternate. The little boy is only pretending to need money to buy his mom shoes - in actuality, Mom is a drug addict and has sent her son out to collect money from kind, unsuspecting strangers to help support her habit. What can I say? We were in high school and we thought it was hilarious. So now every time I hear this song, I think about my friends from yesteryear and our theories about what this song might really be about.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day #8137 - Losing a Legend

Two years ago for spring break, my family and I went out to Arizona for vacation. We'd visited a lot of National Parks in years past, but had never yet made it to the Grand Canyon and my dad wanted to make sure me and my brother both got the chance to experience it. It truly was a beautiful sight, but in all honesty, it wasn't what I had been looking forward to the most before we flew west. Because in addition to going to the Grand Canyon, we were also going to Mesa, Arizona - Spring Training Home of the Chicago Cubs.

I still have the baseball I brought to the park that day sitting in a display box on my desk. I don't really know the names of all the players who signed it - their handwriting is illegible and the only one I know for sure is Canadian pitcher Ryan Demptster, my current favorite player if I had to pick one. But his name is scrawled on the side of the ball. The place of honor between the seams facing the top of the box so I can always see it is Ron Santo's autograph.

I can remember the day easily. People were scattered all around the park, holding out baseballs, posters, and pens while calling out the names of players walking by to please autograph whatever they were holding. My brother and I noticed that there was also a line descending from the window of the broadcasting booth where people were waiting for Len, Bob, and Ron. Even though at one point Ron had to leave to do a post-game interview, he promised he'd be back so we continued to wait. What a guy! He was so nice, signed my baseball along with my brother's, and smiled for a picture. I could barely contain my enthusiasm when I got up to the window, pointed to my dad who was watching from a few rows away, and said "You're our dad's favorite player!" and so Ron gave him a smile and a wave.

It's a shame that he never got to go to the World Series during his playing career, nor did he ever see the Cubs get there in his lifetime. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all was that he was never voted into the Hall of Fame while he was still living to celebrate all his many accomplishments. It's amazing how good of a player he was, and to think he did all that he did while also having diabetes is incredible. But with true class, Ron never complained. In fact, when the Cubs retired his number, he said that it meant more to him than the Hall of Fame.

In recent years, younger generations of Cubs fans have grown to love him not as a player, but as one of the most colorful sports commentators if you listened to WGN radio. (I personally loved it when he'd get on random tangents about his cats.) He did so much for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and not even the loss of both of his legs could slow him down.

Chicago and baseball have lost a legend. (Don't forget, he played one season with the White Sox at the end of his career.) Ron Santo was a class act, a heck of a ball player, and he had a personality in a class of its own. So thanks for the many years of memories, Ron. May your family find comfort during this difficult time and may you rest in peace. When the Cubbies finally do win the ultimate prize, I'm sure you'll be cheering the loudest wherever you are.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day #8129 - Turkey Day

What happened after the first Thanksgiving is perhaps what makes it one of the most ironic holidays ever. I mean, it's a day when we're supposed to sit down with our friends and loved ones, reflecting on what it is we're grateful for. Meanwhile, back in the 1600s when the Europeans started coming here and Thanksgiving began, almost an entire indigienous people were trampled on and their land was eventually taken over. Not exactly nice.

But even though history isn't the most glowing, the spirit of the day is nice. For a visual representation of this festive feeling, I recommend tuning into the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. But for many, today is about three things: food, family and friends. And for some, football.

Little known fact: Benjamin Franklin wanted the national bird to be the turkey rather than the bald eagle.

Little known fact about turkeys: if they look up towards the sky while it's raining, their brains think they are actually out in a body of water and they can drown. Seriously.

Fact about cooking turkeys for this excellent autumnal holiday: Butterball has a hotline :o)

No matter where you are celebrating or who you are celebrating with, here's wishing you a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day #8127 - A West Wing Thanksgiving

I was 11 years old when I decided that when I grew up, I wanted to be the White House Press Secretary. Not a conventional job choice for a 6th grader, but then I was the only one I knew my age who watched The West Wing. Press Secretary was after a long list of other jobs I dreamed of doing: teacher, astronaut, dolphin trainer, ballerina - the possibilities were endless in my mind, so wanting to work at the White House for a wise and intelligent president with his clever and witty staff didn't seem so far-fetched.

Then Aaron Sorkin stopped writing the show after season 4, and, there's no denying it, things changed.

But my love of words could not be ignored which was why I eventually became an English major and am now working on my masters degree in library science so I can hopefully some day get paid to be around books all the time. And as I re-watched my West Wing dvds, I realized that it was the writing I loved just as much as the characters.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'd like to share a bit of that quirkyness with you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day #8125 - (Royal) Family Ties

One of the biggest news stories this week was of course the royal engagement of Prince William Arthur Louis Phillip of Wales to his longtime girlfriend Catherine Elizabeth Middleton of Bucklebury, Berkshire. (Sidenote: don't British people and towns have the best names?!) I mean, the announcement was even big enough of a deal where my the priest at mass this morning talked about it during his homily. Last time I checked, Catholics and the British Royal Family weren't exactly BFFs seeing as Henry VIII founded his own church when the Pope wouldn't grant him a divorce. Wedding news will be everywhere for the next year discussing churches and the dress and of course, the guest list.

As family, I'd like to think I'd be invited, but I'm not going to hold my breath. I mean, we're not even exchanging Christmas cards with the House of Windsor these days.

Don't believe me? Allow me to explain.

A few years ago, my mom traced back part of her family tree and things get especially interesting when we get to a woman named Joan Beaufort (wife of Sir Robert Lawrence). Her father was Edmund Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset.

Edmund's father was John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset.

John Beaufort's father was a fairly well known man in his time: John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster.

Now John of Gaunt had a number of legitimate heirs with his first two wives, but he also had four children with his mistress turned third wife, Katherine Swynford. John Beaufort was one of these children. Not to be considered complete bastard children for long, these four were eventually legitimized by the royal family and church when Katherine and Gaunt got married, but with the special proviso that they were specifically barred from inheriting the throne.

Did I forget to mention that John of Gaunt was the 3rd son of King Edward III? Because he was. So of course, while the royals were eventually okay with calling Katherine and Gaunt's four children family, there was no way that they wanted children that came from an affair to ever be rulers.

Considering all this history and the proviso dates back to the early 1300s, it's not really a surprise that the Windsors and I aren't on each other's speed-dials.

Still, it's pretty cool when you're looking at your family tree and hit royalty because then you can turn to the encyclopedia and history books.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day #8115 - Veteran's Day

In honor of our nation's veterans and those still serving to keep our country free,

Thank you for all that you do.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day #8110 - Dear Monica

On a spring day almost two and a half years ago, I started this blog in preparation for my trip to Verona, Italy. This past summer, a movie came out featuring my beloved city and sharing with the world a story about Romeo's Juliet that I never heard of while I was there: for almost longer than people can remember, people from around the world have been writing letters to Juliet and asking her for advice. For at least the last 70 years, she has been writing back (or at least her secretaries have been on her behalf).

Not going to lie, I'm not the hugest fan of Romeo & Juliet, but I think that's largely due to the fact that the only time I've read it, I was 14 and looking at the situation through cynical 21st-century eyes. I mean, come on. Over the course of four days, a 16-year old and a 12-year old fall in love, get married, and end up committing suicide almost accidentally? Seriously?

But the story is everywhere in Verona and during my six weeks there, I at least learned to appreciate the spirit of the story. So upon seeing the movie and reading the book Letters to Juliet this summer, I decided to embrace the role Juliet has had in my life and I wrote her a letter of my own the day before my 22nd birthday asking her about patience.

Today, my mom came up to my room telling me that I had gotten a letter from Verona, Italy in the mail. My jaw almost hit the floor.

A short, handwritten letter is now laying in its envelope on my desk. Not very long, but still very thoughtful and I'm just still in awe that it's actually here. I don't know if I was expecting some sort of automated, fill-in-the-recipient's-name-here sort of thing, but what I have is great. Not to mention, she offered some great advice and a fresh perspective. Is it hokey? A little bit, but I'll take it. Maybe I wasn't too fond of Juliet when I first read her story, but maybe it's time that I give the play a second chance after all these years.

Me and the Juliet statue that stands outside the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier, a gift from the City of Verona. I also have a picture with her twin that stands under the "Juliet Balcony" in Italy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day #8099 - A Mighty Wind

People write songs about a lot of different things in nature. Sunshine, rain, starry nights, fire, waves - you name it, there is probably a song about it. Today would have been an appropriate day to listen to all songs featuring wind, and I'm not talking about gentle breezes. I'm thinking more along the lines of Twister. I laughed a little bit yesterday when the weather report said that today we would have the worst winds Illinois has seen in 70 years, but that stopped this morning when I was outside in my pjs helping my mom gather up parts of our backyard fence because it got blown out. Toto may have been a quiet and obedient dog when Dorothy calmly told him she didn't think they were in Kansas anymore, but Addy, my family's current fuzzball, didn't quite follow Toto's noble example. Pups these days...

In other news, life post-LEEP weekend is mostly back to normal. I'll have a full week of my usual online lectures this week, complete with homework due and projects to be worked on. I have done laundry. My room is clean enough for now. My creative writing isn't so great, but at least I'm trying at it again. The only thing that needs to happen now is the Blackhawks getting out of their current funk and I'll be a happy camper.

And before I wrap this up, on a completely random note, am I the only one who thinks that Glee is getting a little ridiculous? Tonight was their Rocky Horror episode, and if I were a parent, I'm not so sure that I'd be letting my kids in elementary school watch this season. I'm really feeling like this year, there's no way it belongs in a 7pm timeslot. But maybe that's just me.

Can't believe it's almost November already. My oh my how the time flies by.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day #8090 - A Weekend Away in Campustown

Under other circumstances, I might feel bad about not updating this thing in a week, but hey, I've been busy and it's not like a whole lot of people actually read this thing anyway. Chances are that if you read this blog, you also live in the same house as me and share my DNA. So there ya go.

I'm currently sitting in the South Lounge (the one that faces the quad and looks like it could belong in Harry Potter) of the Illini Union in Urbana, IL. The graduate school program I'm in is primarily online, but we are all required to come to campus once a semester for a designated weekend for class. It's been fun being back - yesterday and the day before I hung out with my friend Ali, have been enjoying this awesome weather by taking long campus walks, and even went to the Illini hockey game last night. It feels nice to be surrounded by other students and other people, even if just to do homework, rather than doing homework around the house all day. It's kind of weird though that the leaves haven't changed colors yet, here. I guess it's been too warm still.

Classes are going alright. I'm in a really good position as far as work is concerned for the class that met yesterday. My group has made a lot of good headway on our final project. I was really excited about the class that met today, but unfortunately that didn't last as long as I would have liked. The fact that I have such limited experience in schools and absolutely zero experience working in any library in any sort of capacity is starting to weigh on me. We talked about the final project for that class today and after the professor was done explaining all of it, the only thought that went through my head was "I genuinely don't think I can do this." So I'm frusturated and freaking out to say the least. As soon as I finish writing here, I'm going to do some reading for another class and just hope that tomorrow goes better. Class is only scheduled to go until 4 I think, and then I'll hit the road. If all goes according to schedule, I'll be back in Schaumburg just in time to watch How I Met Your Mother at 7 and then the Blackhawks vs. Blues game at 7:30. I figure it'll be necessary to chill out after 3 full days of classes and 3 hours of driving. Might as well try to push off the worry until at least Tuesday.

So I guess that's really it from here. I know, I know. My life is terribly exciting and you're all incredibly jealous. Have no fear, I'll be back in suburbia and my life as a hermit before you know it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day #8083 - 10/10/10

Don't really have anything particular to write about today, so this post is most likely just going to be a smattering of random thoughts. Prepare yourselves.

I'm completely loving today's date right now, and as one of my old high school buddies who is currently living in London, England posted on facebook, it's awesome because its coolness is amplified because it doesn't matter if you're in a country that writes the date day/month/year or month/day/year. Good times all around, people!

Also, here's a 26.2 mile shoutout to my neighbor Kelly and anyone else who ran the Chicago Marathon this morning. You are all rockstars in my eyes, that's a seriously awesome accomplishment and you should all be incredibly proud of yourselves.

With it being 84 degrees out right now, I'm starting to have mixed feelings about it being this warm in October. Those who know me know that I love cold weather, but I can also appreciate sunshine and being able to go out without a coat. But really, 84?? It's warmer now than I feel like it was in August! But the leaves are pretty much completely turned and falling, which makes me smile. (Also, the sight of kids raking their lawns while wearing shorts and tee-shirts is pretty funny because it's so weird.)

And I'm sure I could say more, but there's nothing really left to say. I couldn't let such a great date go without a post, so now that I've filled that self-obligation, I feel comfortable moving on with the rest of my afternoon.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day #8079 - Few but Faithful?

So it has brought to my attention recently that what I affectionately refer to as you, my "readership", is most likely no more than five people tops. Not that it really needed to be brought to my attention - I had kind of figured that the whole time. Maybe it's just me needing to play pretend a little bit, wishful thinking that what I write reaches others and makes people think or laugh or even roll their eyes.

So though this readership community may be a small one for now, I just wanted to say that if you do take the time to read this blog, thanks. I know it's silly, but it's nice to know even five people might take the time to read this thing from time to time.

Happy Wednesday, and until next time... :o)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Day #8076 - Ode to Sports Movies

October is a unique time of year as far as the world of sports in North America is concerned. Baseball is heading into the home stretch with the World Series coming our way. Football is about a month into the season. Hockey's pre-season is ending with the promise of a new chase to the Stanley Cup about to be under way. Even basketball is in the midst of training camp with their regular season starting at the end of the month. And for those of you who follow professional soccer on this side of the pond, that is still going on too. Yes, all (male) major league sports are present in one way or another during October - a busy time for the networks in addition to the MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLS.

But even though there's such a wide variety of real sports games to be watching this time of year, I'm going to give my little ode right now to sports movies. I love them, I always have. More often than not they're stories about the underdog team or athlete working hard and with just enough guts and determination, they're able to beat whatever Golliath they're facing. And as corny as it may be, I love it when these sports tales are commenting on something much greater than just the final score. Miracle wasn't just about a hockey team, it was about a country needing something to believe in when it felt hopeless. Remember the Titans was about more than high school football, it was about looking at race relations in 1960s America and the idea that a small group of people, even a high school football team, can make a difference. The Replacements captures the idea of having a second chance to live your dream. The incomperable The Mighty Ducks shows how even misfits have a place to belong. And though I'm not really one for watching golf, The Legend of Baggar Vance uses the game of golf as a metaphor for life, something that "can't be won, only played."

But that's not always the case, they don't always win or end in the traditional happily ever after, and those stories (fiction or fact) are almost even more endearing to me. Rudy is based on the true story of a young man who only ever dreamed of playing Notre Dame football, and for all his hard work for four long years, he got to dress for one game and participate in two plays. In Mystery, Alaska, a small-town Alaskan team puts up a hell of a fight against the New York Rangers and though they fall short when the final buzzer sounds, the movie is about a team with a lot of heart who really didn't lose when you consider the big picture.

I could go on and on. True, I love it when a movie or story is based on something that actually happened (such as Invictus - if you haven't seen it, you should), but they all carry the same tone with me. Sometimes, it really is more than "just a game" and though winning is always the preferred outcome, the bigger message is about laying it all out on the field, ice, court, etc. and giving the situation your absolute best so that when you do walk away or look back later in life, there are no regrets. So here's to the sports movies and the many metaphors they stand for.

Oh, and Go Blackhawks!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day #8074 - Routine Maintenance

First and foremost, readers, Happy October! I love the binary of today's date: 10/01/10. Just wait until the 10th; then I'll probably have goosebumps.

While Fridays this semester mean that I don't have class to log into, that doesn't mean I sit around in my pjs all day wandering the world of YouTube or Wikipedia. Usually, Fridays and my other weekday without classes, Mondays, are dedicated to homework - either trying to get ahead of the game or keep up with the schedule. Today I took on a different project bright and early. Twice a year I wax and clean my car and today was one of those lucky days.

Let me tell you, taking care of my car was apparently just the change I needed to snap out of this weird place I've been in for the last two days. Though in today's society a well-off job almost always requires working at a desk with a computer, I loved that the day went by so much faster than it has in a long time because I was working with my hands. It reminded me of all the activities I did in high school and how I'd get so engrossed in a project or task that I wouldn't notice the hours going by. Lately I'm lucky if I'm at my desk working on homework by 9:30, but today I was full of energy and was already working in the garage by 8am. I feel it was a job well done and a good start to the weekend that will now be filled with more studying, reading, and writing.

Much like cars, I think it's important that people give themselves routine maintenance as well. Evaluate what we're doing, where we're going, and the company we keep. Cleaning out my Facebook friends over the summer felt liberating, and I feel another purge coming on in the near future. In the grand scheme of things, there isn't a whole lot that we have control of in this life. So, let's take care of the things we do have a say in.

Keep it classy, my few but faithful readers! Comments ALWAYS welcome!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day #8069 - Book Binge

For those of you out there who once upon a time may have been English majors, the term "word vomit" is probably not something new. For those of you who weren't, allow me to elaborate. Word vomit is more or less just writing whatever is in your head on a topic, whatever random ideas whether they work together or not. This is a common occurrence among writers pulling an all-nighter, realizing that the paper assigned a few weeks ago is due in a few hours. For others this could just be a natural part of their writing process, wanting to get all their ideas down first, then moving them around and making more sense of them later via editing.

However, this weekend I've been experiencing what could best be described as a book binge - rather than writing everything down as fast as I can and hardly allowing time for anything to process, I've been having to read so quickly that there hasn't been much time to enjoy it and only taking enough time where the stories can sink in for when I need to discuss them in class this coming week. For my children's lit class, I've read three out of the four assigned novels for the week in the last few days. Two alone I read yesterday, one of which was a Newberry Honor winner and I had to sprint through it in a matter of hours. I'm about to jump into my fourth novel of the weekend, but knowing I need to metaphorically inhale it by Wednesday afternoon on top of the other homework and projects that need my attention, it just feels wrong. These authors probably spent months or maybe even years writing these books, and I'm only taking a few hours with each one before needing to move on.

I guess this is all a roundabout way of commenting on time-management, though that honestly isn't what I was going for. I make to-do lists every day and consider myself to have very strong time-management skills. Yet there are always days like today when it feels like there's still more to be done than I'll ever have time for. So yes, sometimes sprinting through tasks is a necessary evil, but we should all do the best we can to recognize that pausing is sometimes just as necessary. You don't always have to stop and smell the roses, and if there's just not enough time to stop, at least take a moment to think about how remarkable the things we take for granted actually are.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day #8067 - Smells Like Season Spirit

For the last couple of days, I've been eying the trees on my street when I drive to and from home when I'm running errands and whatnot. Early last week they still looked the same as they have all summer, but lately I've been spotting a few golden tips here or there breaking through the monotony. Finally when I went out to get the mail this morning, it felt like the change of seasons was truly upon us. Not just because more leaves are turning golden, orange, red, and rust with each passing day, but today there was finally that autumn smell.

Strange as it may sound, that smell is one of the things I miss most about being down on campus. I miss walking outside to class this time of year, wearing jeans and a hoodie with my earbuds in, feeling a cool crisp breeze in my face that carries the smell of falling leaves, football games, marching bands, and adventures to come. Of course part of me loves the fact that if fall is finally here, that means winter and regular-season hockey is right around the corner too. But I'll take the preseason for now, that's enough for me. One of the reasons I love being in the midwest so much as that we get to actually see the seasons change gradually rather than just waking up one morning and BAM! blizzards or even worse, living someplace where the weather is just the same all year round.

It's a great smell and a fun time of the year. Is it completely crazy to say that lately, I actually like going to my classes, doing my homework, and just soaking in the season? They said on the news that yesterday's temperatures were 20 degrees above normal. Here's to hoping that the weather figures out we shouldn't be wearing shorts in late September. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go out on the porch and do more of my reading homework for today (in the comfort of an old Illini sweatshirt, of course).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day #8065 - Let the Fall Begin

Happy Autumnal Equinox, readership! As is my custom on every equinox (and solstice), here is my traditional balancing an egg on its end picture for your viewing pleasure.

Celebrate safely and keep it classy!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day #8058 - And Many More

Don't really have anything to blog about today readers, except here's a big shoutout to my parents - today is their 26th wedding anniversary! Woot Woot! Congrats!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day #8056 - I am a Transparent Eyeball

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who once wrote, "I become a transparent eyeball-I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me-I am part or particle of God." Sure he was one of the fathers of Transcendentalism and was completely consumed by the majesty of nature, but even in my suburban environment I still get what he's saying. Of course there are less trees here, but I like to believe I catch his drift.

However, today as I was sitting here trying to decide what topic to blog about for you, my few but faithful and generally silent readership, I felt like a transparent eyeball. My mind was going a mile a minute in about 50 different directions, none of which were what I wanted to be focusing on (which was trying to pic a topic). My day planner, the articles I have to read, the paper I have to finish, the children's books that I just picked up from the library to read for my class next week, my back still not feeling the way it's supposed to, the pile of laundry growing on my floor - in the course of the glance around my bedroom, I felt like I was about to fall over due to the rush of "currents of the Universal Being" coming at me. Sure, stopping to smell the roses is a necessity in life, but at the same time, when is there time to get to just focus on one thing at a time?

Priorities come into consideration and so I turn to my daily to-do list for guidance. In the meantime, I should probably get to work, but not before playing with Addy who finally resembles a dog again now that she got a haircut. Enjoy the little things, but then recall Sanka from the classic film Cool Runnings: "You know what my grandfather told me? 'Get back to work!'"

Keep it classy, readers.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day #8053 - The Bigger Picture

You'll have to pardon me, readership. I'm not usually one to get up on a soapbox and tell other people what they should believe or how they should live their lives. But today's a little different because there is a worthy cause which deserves the attention.

Right now, WTMX is sponsoring the 11th annual Eric & Kathy 36-Hour Radiothon for Children's Memorial Hospital and this is my 11th year listening in. Year after year, the stories they tell are heartbreaking and yet so full of hope. Hour after hour, I listen and am reminded of how blessed I am with health and that it is therefore my responsibility to help those less fortunate than myself. These children are my heroes - some of them are only hours old, yet they are already far braver than me and fighting for their lives. Medical issues like cancer are already fighting for research funding, and pediatric cancers get even less. They have tumors and cancers and challenges greater than I could ever imagine, yet these children fight day after day. Surgeries and chemo and radiation and test after test after test, yet they consider Children's their second home and continue to fight with a smile on their faces and a courage I've never known. The doctors, nurses, administration, everyone at this hospital believe in what they are doing and want nothing more than to treat these truly inspirational kids.

So I encourage you to take a half hour and listen in to 101.9 FM or on the WTMX website- the message is strong and these kids are resilient. If you're not in a position to donate money to this cause right now, then at least take a moment to take a look around and count your blessings, to appreciate what you have. These families do that every day their children are still with them. And who knows what tomorrow will bring? The radiothon ends at 6pm on Saturday, and I sincerely hope that everyone takes the time out of their busy lives to listen in and take it in - it's a cause that's worth all our time. What's more important than taking care of children? It's so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day headaches and think we've got it bad, but just think of the bigger picture.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day #8048 - Labor of Love

Hey readers, sorry for the gap-ige between posts. Can you believe that for the first time in a long while, I've actually had a bit of a social agenda the last few days? I know, it's shocking, but it was nice to get out of the house for a bit.

I'm currently sitting here at my desk trying desperately to focus on a project due for my class on Tuesday (which, in 20 short minutes will be tomorrow...eek). The task is to write a review of a picture book, so naturally during this time when I need to be concentrating on the works of others, I'm thinking more about my own feeble attempts at writing. I feel like I have a ton of stories building up inside of me, but I just can't ever seem to get them out on paper well enough to do them justice. Or perhaps these many ideas just sound better in my head.

Thank goodness I guess for this blog and my journal, because writing, like anything worth creating, is a labor of love. You have to offer up a bit of yourself in order for anything of any value to come out of it. You have to be willing to get it wrong, have other people hate it, and then try it all over again tomorrow. But in a world where failure is not an option, creativity is becoming stifled - our fear of not doing something that meets everyone's standards has finally outweighed the desire to even try at all. So here's to getting back on the horse. Here's to running everyday even though my back is still feeling off and some days I absolutely dread the walk down to the basement treadmill with my head full of anxiety about this 5K coming up because I know that when I cross the finish line, it will feel that much more awesome. And here's to the stories yet to be written, be it by me or anyone else. Time to just pick up the pen and paper, not worry about it looking great, and just letting the words fall where they may.

And in case you were wondering, yes today's title is a slight pun on the fact that tomorrow is Labor Day here in these United States of America. Celebrate safely, keep it classy, and I'll catch you on the flip side.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day #8037 - LEEP Write Run

Hey there, readership! I promised you a slightly more detailed account of my birthday, though there's honestly not a whole lot to say. After a good run on the treadmill in the morning, I spent a good portion of the day at the library checking out the children's books I need to have read for my class next week and taking notes on them. Came home, had lunch, and after I got myself satisfactorily organized for the semester, continued on my quest to finish re-reading all 7 of the Harry Potter books. (FYI I finished Deathly Hallows Tuesday around 2pm because I took my time, thus ending my 4,100 page journey.) My grandma, her sister, and my bro's gf came over for dinner, there were some hockey-themed gifts (!!!), and then my next door neighbors joined us for cake. Their 6 year old daughter drew me a lovely card and told me that the picture on the front was what she thinks I'll look like in my wedding dress - I tell ya, kids say the darndest things and it was adorable so I couldn't help but smile. But honestly, I very ordinary day and that's what made it so good.

So what else is new besides being 22? My grad school classes started yesterday (I'm in what's called the LEEP program through U of I) - I've had two 2-hour lectures online so far, and I think they've gone pretty well. So far I'm interested, which is a good start. I'm proud of myself for staying on top of the readings so far and keeping organized - not so difficult right now because the projects haven't started yet, but hey, baby steps.

In addition to my many hours of reading and notetaking, I've found a revived love for my journal. Pages and pages of ramblings can be good for the soul, and plus I've adopted the use of multi-colored pens which just makes it even that much more fun.

And then there's the running. Now I would not call myself an athlete by any definition - mostly I take advantage of the treadmill in my basement because I know I should take care of myself (especially given my high Nutella intake). But yesterday, my friend Heidi convinced me to register do do the Mad Dash on Madison 5K sponsored by the Blackhawks downtown next month. It's coming up quick, September 18th, and I haven't done a 5K in over two years. For the last two days, I've run a mile and a half on the treadmill which is big news for me, but I can't even remember the last time I ran outside. However, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited. It gives me something to work on everyday that I won't get graded on, and it feels good to run after sitting and doing homework and online lectures during the day. All in all, good times.

So that's it from Wednesday. Keep it classy, readers, and until next time...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day #8035 - Birthday Blog!

Getting this in just under the wire!

Reader's Digest version for now:
Yesterday I was 21. Today I'm 22. Was a completely ordinary day, and because that was the case, one of the better birthdays I've had in a long time because I didn't hype it up before hand. Good times.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Day #8034 - Another Year Gone

In just under an hour and a half, my life as a 21 year old will be over. I know that a lot of people joke that turning 22 means your life ends because it really means you're an adult (because now you've had a year of legal drinking, which means you ought to be more responsible about life), but I have mixed feelings. It has been one crazy year.

It's hard to believe that this time last year, I had just moved in to Barton Hall, yet to experience the joys of CI403, and the chaos that is student teaching was still five months away. It feels like all of that was so much longer than a year behind me. So being 21 was full of big changes - legal life, a temporary return to dorm life, leaving the campus that had been my home for the last three and a half years, surviving a semester as "Miss Fuma - Student Teacher", graduating from college, changing my life plan and starting my master's degree, a new puppy, travels near and far, I could go on and on and on. There have been plenty of ups and downs, many of which have been documented either here or in my journal, but I made it. We're back here again.

So I should be hitting the sack soon seeing as tomorrow, in addition to being my birthday, is also the first day of the new school year. My classes don't actually start meeting until Tuesday, but I'm going to go to the library and try to get ahead on some homework anyway. So so long, 21. It's been quite an interesting time to say the least. Catch you on the flip side.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day #8033 - Stuck in the Middle

I have a confession for you, readership. While my love of Harry Potter is deep and true, a factoid that I'm sure many of you have no doubt picked up on by now, I must admit that I love some of the books rather more than others. Not that I could necessarily pick a favorite novel from the series (I like different things from different books for different reasons), but I can say without a moment's hesitation that my least favorite would have to be book 5, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

I don't really know what it is about this book, but it's always seemed to rub me a bit wrong. Like an itch right in the middle of my back that I can't reach, but I force myself to keep trying for it anyway. It is by far the longest book in the series, too, so the fact that it is the hardest for me emotionally to get through is only amplified. There's teen angst. There's awkwardness. There are people refusing to and unable to understand where others are coming from. Maybe I have such a hard time with this novel because it reminds me way too much of myself.

Except, I can't say that I dislike the whole thing. I love the parts about Dumbledore's Army and when Fred and George decide to leave school in style. But mostly, my favorite part of the book is the final 120 pages. These last chapters are easily the most depressing as well due to the death of a loved character, the revelation of a sad prophecy, the start of a war, and the somber note it ends on with all of the characters facing uncertain futures. However, after 740 pages of wanting to punch something and feeling as frusturated as Harry himself, the last eighth of the book is so beautifully and poignantly written, I don't mind that the subject matter is on the sad side. In fact, I've always been able to connect with Harry most strongly at this point in the series. Now that I've just finished the novel, I feel exhausted but at the same time relieved because the I know the next two books are literary masterpieces, at least in my opinion, and truly reveal the genius of JK Rowling's imagination, planning, and story telling.

Also, the last time I set out to read the whole series was right before the 7th book came out and I cheated by watching the 5th movie rather than reading the book because I was running short on time. But not this time!

So here's to having 5 books down, 2 to go! Keep it classy readers!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Day #8032 - Back in the Saddle

Don't worry, readers. For those of you who have met me and my incredible clumsiness, never fear - I am speaking figuratively, not literally. I am not actually talking about riding horses (though that would be a fun time). I'm referring to the fact that the dawn of a new school year is upon us once again. Or at least, upon me.

Though my classes don't actually start meeting until next Tuesday, I've been spending this week doing all of the required reading that has to be completed prior to each of the first lectures. Who ever thought I'd be grateful for homework? The start of the school year is perfectly timed, because I have just about gotten to the point where I was running out of ideas of how to fill my days productively, especially given my lack of employment at the moment.

And this time, I'm determined to do better. My summer class and 10-day boot camp down in Champaign showed me several things about this program. For starters, this is NOT undergrad - the readings are longer, more challenging, and the professors will be expecting much more of me. Secondly, this really is something I want to excel at. I never took notes on the readings for my summer class, and that was a mistake. By the time I got to campus, all the different articles felt like they had melted into one big confusing puddle in my head. But not this time. This time, I will be organized. Finally, my focus and attention levels need to stay high. Starting next week, I will be going to the library to do my school work. Quiet, big tables, and not being able to wander to the refrigerator every time I'm tired of reading is exactly what I need.

In other news, I'm 100 pages into book 5 (Order of the Phoenix) in my Harry Potter reading marathon. Those 2 days of being sick really threw me off my game, but I think I may still have a shot. It'll be close and maybe it's not going to happen, but if I finish the series before my birthday ends Monday at midnight, I'll consider this a rousing success haha

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day #8028 - I Get Knocked Down

Let me tell you, readers, when I get sick, I seem to get knocked down to the floor. Not fun to say the least. At least with colds you can usually feel it coming, but I have no idea what's gotten to me. I wasn't able to sleep at all last night due to this continuous feeling like I was getting punched in the stomach, which has been continuing all day combined with a headache to boot. Oh the joys of summer. I'm more bummed because I was excited to run and get back into my regular workout routine, but I think if it were possible, my head would kill me if I tried.

It brings my thoughts back to the saying "be careful what you wish for." How many times in college did I probably wish, 'If only I could stay in bed all day.' Maybe on a rainy Saturday afternoon watching movies and I had no homework or other obligations, but being in bed all day not feeling well and knowing you have a to-do list waiting for you just sucks the fun out of the whole experience. I just printed out my syllabuses for my classes this fall and I already need to start my readings that need to be done for my first days of classes next week. So I better feel better by tomorrow, or else I'm still going to drag myself to the library and convince myself that I'm fine. Will power, baby!

Here's hoping all of you are doing well, readership. Stay healthy!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day #8026 - When the Universe Speaks

Let me tell you, readers, I've always been a bit on the fence when comes to the idea of believing in "signs." I mean, I'm a fairly religious and spiritual person, but the idea that the universe or God is trying to show me signs about my life has always been a difficult for me, usually because they're so subtle that I probably miss most of them.

However, sometimes (like right now), the universe will choose to speak quite clearly. Last night, on my way home from being out, I stopped by the house of someone I was friends with in high school because he's in town for the weekend. Now, this person and I have had a fairly blundersome relationship to say the least - a lot of headaches were involved and hurt feelings especially back in high school, but ever since going our separate ways to different colleges and states, it's been different. We rarely talk, except for once or twice a year when we're in the same state at the same time. It's always been difficult for me to let this friendship go because it used to not be so ridiculous, but at the same time I always know that I'm better off without this part of my life dragging on. This knowledge doesn't make the choice I have to continually make any easier, though.

That is, until now. Like I said, I was on my way home when I stopped by this person's house and we got to talking. It was a nice talk and everything (we mainly discussed sports, a safe topic) and then when it was time to go, I saw that the universe had spoken VERY CLEARLY - someone had egged my car. ROTTEN EGGS THROWN AT MY CAR!! Not good. I told my family about it, washed my car this morning, and am incredibly pissed that the egg shell actually chipped the paint on one of my doors. Anyway, I firmly believe that this was probably the work of some drunk teenagers, but also the universe telling me, "STOP! When will you realize, Monica, that you need to let this go!?!" Well, I have gotten the message loud and clear and have the marks on my car to prove it. Time to make peace with this and move on. As if that alone weren't enough of a sign, I got a facebook message from another acquaintance I haven't heard from in a long time and I was so glad to. Time to move forward :o).

And when in doubt, egging someone's car is NEVER a good idea.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day #8024 - Page by Page

There's an old saying that says, "Idle hands are the devil's handywork," meaning that if you have nothing to do, you'll get into trouble. At the moment, it's a sentiment that I can certainly understand. With just under a week and a half before school starts again, I am surprised to find myself with so much free time, yet not much to do. I make my daily calls to try and to register my teaching certificate in my region (but that's a story for another day) so that I can finish my applications to become a substitute teacher. I'm getting back into the habit of running in the morning and all that jazz. I've even been practicing my guitar and sounding slightly less terrible. Yet there is still a lot of open time in my days, at least for the next week and a half anyway.

All of this has led me to my crazy goal. In the last week and a half, I have read three novels. More like flew through them, actually. So I've set up a challenge for myself - to reread all 7 Harry Potter books before my birthday and the first day of school on the 23rd. Is it completely ridiculous? Oh heck yes. But given the current state of funk that I've been stuck in for a while, I think these novels could be just the boost I need to snap me out of it. It's been several years since I've read them, so it also makes for a nice trip down memory lane. I can remember where I was they days I got each of these books, even the first one which I got in 1999.

So wish me luck, readers, as I attempt to dive into this magical world all over again. Anything to distract me from the crazy high temperatures and humidity we've been getting here in Chicagoland! Yeesh!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day #8022 - From Under the Sea to Under the Weather

Before you jump to conclusions given the title of today's blog, no I am not sick. My back is slightly stiff as of late if I'm sitting on my bed reading for long periods of time, but other than that I'm pretty much fine. The one who is under the weather is the newest member of my family, our maltipoo, Addison Lynn Rae.

It makes me so sad to see Addy not feeling well, especially when she has come so far in the few months she's been with us. She's only about 6 months old, but recently she has made such huge leaps. She's finally trained to go outside, she's stopped biting, she's more responsive to her name, she's so much fun to play with. Especially since summer school ended, I've been particularly conscious of my lack of social life. As a result, when I'm not burrying myself in reading books I've come to consider my journal and Addy my best friends - they are always there, and with Addy I can always count on her affection and silly antics to put a smile on my face. It made me so happy when she was excited to see me when we went to pick her up in Milwaukee a few days ago, so I'm naturally crushed that she's got some sort of bug and according to the vet, there's nothing in particular we can really do for her right now other than hope she responds to the medication and hope this works itself out of her system.

So here are my two cents - for those of you who have never had a pet, you may fully understand what I mean when I say that a pet is a member of the family. But it's true - Addy is my sister, and while she will never take the place of Lizzie, my family's Yorkshire Terrier who passed away 7 years ago, Addy has made her own place in my heart and continually brings a smile to my face during this new part of my life. So people, take care of your pets. They may make us crazy sometimes, but they will love you unconditionally if you just show them some affection, too.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day #8012 - When Sleep Won't Come

Maybe this post should be labeled as Night #8012 instead of day. My sleep schedule has been nice and normal pretty much all summer, so I can't figure out what's going on right now.

I went to bed shortly after 11 and have been not sleeping now for the last 2 hours. Of course if this were a normal night, I might not care as much, but since I am supposed to be waking up at 3:30 (aka 2.5 hours) so we can go to the airport, I'm at a loss of what to do. I have washed my face, been doing push-ups, tried clearing my mind, but so far, nada. It's even raining right now which usually results in me having a deep night's sleep that rivals being in a coma.

With this awkward time span, I'm not sure what to do. Well that's not true - I'd like to be able to crawl into bed and fall to sleep immediately, but for reasons passing understanding I'm just not tired. Which leaves me with the option that I like to refer to as the "Last Night in Italy" option. If you click back through this blog to a post sometime in early June 2008, I posted an entry around 3am (Italy time) my last night in Verona before flying home. We went to see the opera Aida at the Arena which didn't end until about 1:30 in the morning, and the bus taking those of us going to the airport was due to pick us up at 4am. So after the opera and saying our goodbyes, I went back to my apartment and packed, staying up the whole night. Of course that plan backfired a little bit when a bunch of us planned on just sleeping on the plane but none of us were able to as we crossed the Atlantic, but it's still an option.

I'll try more push-ups for now (or maybe crunches?), and if that doesn't work, hello YouTube...

oh, and happy birthday to JK Rowling!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day #8005 - The Write Stuff

One of the many things that drew me to being an English major so many moons ago was my love of stories. Well that and wanting to learn all the rules of proper grammar so I could correct people, but I never got around to that. But ever since I was little, I have always been captivated by a well told story. Great written works like Hop on Pop and of course the Disney (and later Pixar) Classics that so many of us have come to know and love.

However reading hundreds of stories and being able to write a good one yourself are two very different things. Lately I have been trying my hand again at writing stories and so far, not too terrible. It's been fun getting some of these ideas down on paper and playing around with them in my head, and there's so much more to think about than I ever really appreciated before. Will my stories lead to anything? Most likely not, but in the meantime, I like having a project that makes me think.

Sorry, readership. I was definitely planning on going somewhere with this topic, but I guess I lost my train of thought. Keep it classy and keep on reading!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day #8003 - Institutional Memory

Wikipedia defines the term "institutional memory" as "a collective set of facts, concepts, experiences, and know-how held by a group of people. As it transcends the individual, it requires the ongoing transmission of these memories between members of this group." The definition goes on to say that elements of institutional memory are often found in corporations, professional groups, goverments, religions, academic projects, and in some cases entire cultures. The idea of memories and anniversaries has been on my mind today since today is an anniversary of an event. I'm not going to discuss the event here, only how I remember it.

Though this memory goes back several years, I remember exactly where I was. Heck, I even remember the exact outfit I was wearing. I remember most of the people I was with, too. But I have hardly any recollection of what was said. I was surrounded by people and I know we were talking, but I can't remember what. And while I have this very clear picture in my head of that day and those events, I'm drawn back to this idea of institutional memory - how do the other people from that day remember it? It was a collective experience, we were all there, but we all felt something different and each responded differently.

Back when I was student teaching, I had a similar conversation with my students. For some reason or another, bringing up the events of 9/11 tied into our discussion of the day. I asked my room full of 15 and 16 year olds where they were on September 11, 2001 - what were you doing? Where were you? How did you respond? Did you know what was going on? And then I told them my answers - that I had been in my 3rd week of 8th grade at Mead Jr High School and was on my way to 3rd period band when me and my classmates were ushered inside a classroom where we sat for hours with our eyes glued to a television screen as we watched the Twin Towers fall. Another day in my past where I remember exactly where I was and exactly what I was wearing, but on that day I still remember what was said and how I felt because my Language Arts teacher insisted that we write about it because on that day, the course of American history changed.

Anyway, I guess the long and the short of it is that it's interesting to me the things that our minds choose to remember and in particular how anniversaries and discussions have a way of bringing them back up to the surface. May our memories serve us well.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day #8001 - The Power of Great Oratory

Over the last week, I have been re-watching my dvds of The West Wing, starting with Season 1 and am now about halfway through Season 2. In addition to the genuine characters, interesting story lines, and a unique setting, one of the things I am finding myself appreciating more and more is the great writing that made up this show. The dialogue is smart and fast, the patterns of speech are strong and pleasing to the ear, and the sentiment is strong. Especially in the early seasons, I feel like Aaron Sorkin really raised the bar for viewers, challenging them to watch a show where highly educated people didn't dumb themselves down for the sake of ratings. After seven seasons, I was sad to depart with these characters, but even still, the show has been off the air for nearly four years and I still quote some of it's most memorable lines.

Though I have a dismal vocabulary (especially considering I have an English degree) and my ability to deliver understandable oratory has only moderately improved thanks to my semester of student teaching, it is still a trait I value above all when it comes to story telling. Anne Lamont in her book Bird by Bird stresses that for new authors, the biggest struggle is often developing realistic or believable dialogue. I can attest to that in my attempts at writing fiction. But I also think that this can be a double-edged sword - there are many people (right now, politicians come to mind) who are capable of great writing and oratory, but aren't actually saying anything. You have been warned, readership, to try your best not get lost in flowery language unless there is a point to it.

That's all from here. Keep it classy, readership. Comments and suggestions for blogging topics are always welcome :o)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day #8000 - Me and John Mellencamp

It's become an interesting practice to measure my life in days with this blog rather than just years, and to realize that I am 8,000 days old has been interesting to say the least. When I realized this day was coming up, part of me instantly thought that I should try to make it unique somehow. Memorable. Special. Then I remembered how when I've tried doing that in the past with birthdays, Hallmark Holidays, and New Year's Eve, it's never lived up to the hype and I always end up disapointed. I also thought of the title I gave to this blog over two years ago, "Just Another Day," and it actually did shape the way I chose to spend this, my 8,000th day of life.

I wasn't being apathetic when I came up with the name for this blog. In fact, a lot of careful consideration and thought went into the decision and it all comes down to John Mellencamp. In 1997, he released the song "Just Another Day" and I remember always finding the tune incredibly catchy. The lyrics talk about how days can go by so quickly and the idea of living in the now because it'll be over before you know it. We spend so much time thinking about the past and the future that the present is easily forgotten. That message combined with my decision to label every entry with a day number fit well together.

And so today really was just another day. Woke up listening to Eric & Kathy on WTMX, ran on the treadmill and did a short workout, did laundry, cleaned my room, went to Michael's to get a frame for my latest needlepoint project, practiced my guitar, and have been drawing while watching my old West Wing dvds. In the grand scheme of things, was today especially memorable? Not at all. But it was still a good day and I think all of us should take the time more often to step back, look at what we have, and be grateful for it.

I blink my eyes and the moment is over. I guess another day has passed...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Day #7997 - Finally

Well I can feel a little...different, yeah we'll go with different, now when I say "Hello readership!" because as it turns out, there are really some readers out there! Finally! Granted, this one reader who did take the time to leave a comment was anonymous and accused me of calling vegans unhealthy (which, to be clear, that is not what I said! As with anything in life, I just believe people need to make educated and informed decisions), but hey, a reader is a reader and the more, the merrier! Though for the future, I guess I wonder if I'm allowed to be a little picky and request that you at least leave a name (even if it's not your real one) - anonymous comments still feel so distant. Anyway, so that happened today!

In other news, LIS502 will finally be over after tomorrow's lecture in the morning and final exam in the afternoon. The words "totally psyched" come to mind - not that I haven't enjoyed the experience, because I really have and look forward to the things to com, but it will be nice to be back in my own house and let my brain decompress a little from this information surge that has been underway. Intense, but in a good way. Tomorrow I really would be okay with getting a B! haha

Well back to the grindstone, I suppose. Keep those comments coming!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day #7996 - New Recruits

I really need to remember to post here in 4 days when I will now be over 8000 days old! wooot!

In other news, I will be very happy when this class is over with in a few days. Everyone who is here for the first section is completely wiped, and it was just funny today when we left lecture this morning and saw all the people who are here for the second session. I feel like a high school sophomore - we just want to warn the newbies and tell them "Start studying for the final now! Memorize the readings as soon as you can! You're not going to sleep for the next week and a half!" But then I see that they're so smiley and excited and I just don't want to be the one to ruin that haha.

Focusing has been a bit of an issue lately, and it's only becoming a greater challenge as the desire to sleep is growing. We had lecture this morning, we're about to have a discussion section now, a break before another lecture around dinner time, and then a short break before having to give group presentations tonight until 8pm. Then we have a paper due tomorrow morning at 8am, lecture, study study study, another lecture Saturday morning and then my final that afternoon. And THEN I'm done!

Keep it classy, readers!

***5:42 Edit***
Just got my paper back that I turned in two days ago. I got a B, which maybe I'd be more okay with if I wasn't such a perfectionist. Feeling good about the presentation tonight, it'll be hard to mess up the paper due tomorrow, and scared to death about the Final Exam on Saturday. Can't wait to be DONE!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day #7993 - Intellectual Property

Good afternoon, my few but faithful readers! Hopefully the number of people actually reading this will someday increase, but for now, it's just a small group discussion. Works for me. Keeping it cozy.

I'm currently camped out in the GSLIS building (that's the Graduate School of Library and Information Science) here in Champaign and after this afternoon's lecture and tonight's discussion group, I will officially be halfway through this class (in terms of time, not necessarily in terms of work)! woot! I really am enjoying getting to know the other people here and have officially decided that right now, I'm a fan of this whole "being a grad student" thing. The 60 of us are bonding everyday over living in the dorm, needing to jump up onto the lofted beds, and the general information overload that's freaking everyone out. It's hard to put off thinking about the final exam because there's so much other stuff to get done first, but when it's less than a week away, in a normal semester I would have started studying for that already.

Anywho, it's our lunch break now until 4pm and I'm working on my paper regarding "the intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples" and basically what are museums supposed to do if, in this case, Native Americans walk in and ask for their stuff back. This paper is all I have really been able to think about for the last four days and it's already due tomorrow. Now the English major in me hates this - normally when I get a paper assignment, I like to mull it over in my head and think things out for a couple days before jumping into writing. No such luxury this week, though. I got a B+ on my first paper which I know isn't bad, but still. This is me we're talking about. I think though, with this paper due tomorrow and the time constraints on top of the 80 other things we LEEP students have going on right now, what I have written for this assignment is honestly the best I can do given everything else. So hopefully that'll be enough.

That's it for now. Not terribly exciting, believe me I know. I'll get my swing and sarcasm back soon, I promise!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Day #7991 - The Long and not-so-Winding Stacks

Every year in the back of the iBook (the assignment book that U of I sells that's all school themed) there is a list of things students should do before they graduate. And let me tell you, when I was a freshman I thought this was the coolest list ever. Like an undergraduate Bucket List. Some of the things were more common ("Play frisbee on the Quad", "Attend a barndance") while others were a little more out there ("Attend a lecture that isn't one of your own").

(On a sad note, "Ring the bells at Altgeld" isn't on this year's list, which is a bummer because that was seriously one of the coolest things I have done on this campus. Also gone is "Get free condoms from McKinley." - what is this public school coming to??)

Another item that was cut from this year's list that I had always wanted to do in the past was "visit the main stacks in the library," but for whatever reason, I just never got around to it. But today, that changed. As further part of our orientation (and we didn't even really start the class part of our class until 3:30 this afternoon), we got to take a tour of the Main Library building including going into the stacks. Awesome? I think YES!

Day #7990 - Bootcamp

Since my second day of LIS502 aka "bootcamp" doesn't technically start for another seven minutes, I figure I can squeeze out a quick burst into the blogosphere! The drive down to Champaign was fine on Wednesday and I had all of the typical "day before the first day of school" jitters. In some ways, yesterday went a lot better than I thought it would, but in others it was really overwhelming and I wasn't able to really calm down until after I talked to Mom and Dad. "Information overload" puts it kindly, but I think that after I'm able to get the stupid printing all set up here and talk to some people about what classes I should take and what I'm doing with my life, I'll feel better. In the mean time, I'll just keep reminding myself to work hard here because at least after this is vacation in August!

Not that interesting, I know. I'll try to come up with something a bit more human-interesting as the day goes on. Hopefully this class will spark the imagination.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Day #7985 - Oh Say does that Star Spangled Banner yet Wave

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Well said, Thomas Jefferson. Well said indeed.

While on most any other day I would ordinarily be expressing my frustrations with how crooked the American government has become over the course of the last 234 years (particularly those who hold office in Illinois), I will be doing no such thing today. On this, my nation's Independence Day, I'll admit the fact that I actually really do love this country. Does America have it's fair share of problems? Yes. Is our current condition our proudest moment in history? No, there's certainly room left for improvement there. But this country has also come a long way in 234 years in other ways and I'm very proud of that. This pluralistic society truly was revolutionary at the time of it's inception and look at how it has managed to stand the test of time.

So Happy Birthday, United States. God Bless America and God Bless our Troops, wherever they may be.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Day #7984 - Oh me-o, Oh my-oh, Why are we in Ohio?

Well readers, after many many hours in the car today, I am back to home sweet home in Schaumburg. Yesterday was tubing down a lazy river with the family in Tennessee followed by dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.( heck yes, Forrest Gump!! And the food was really good!) and walking around Gatlinburg. Mom and I hit the road bright and early today and I am very much looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight. The ride home was mostly uneventful except for the fact that we had pretty much no idea where we were going. The route that the GPS had us take going to Tennessee was not the same one it had us use to get home. We were driving along through Kentucky, crossed the state line into Indiana, and then ten minutes later crossed another state line into Ohio before we eventually got back to Indiana. A little unnerving, but we arrived back home safe and sound.

Almost done with Eat Pray Love - I seriously can't put it down!

The next few days will be filled with working out, laundry, going over articles, and finishing my paper before heading down to school on Wednesday. But more on all of that later - I am positively beat tonight. Keep it classy, readership =)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day #7982 - Love All. Serve All. Save the Planet.

Happy New Month! Sometimes I think that January gets all the new month glory just because it's a new year. So here's to you, July! Live it up until the 4th and then live it up some more!

Today was my cousin's wedding in Gatlinburg. Or maybe it was Pigeon Forge. I'm not quite sure. Anyway, she looked beautiful and happy - a very quaint ceremony. It's been nice the last couple of days getting to see family that I haven't seen in a few years.

So the ceremony was at 2, then there was a short reception and we were back to our hotel by 5:30ish. I got to break in my brand new journal (old school writing felt so good!) before Mom and I headed back into town for dinner. She correctly predicted where I'd want to eat - the Hard Rock Cafe. Hard Rock is kind of my thing - any time I am traveling and find out that there is one nearby, I have to visit (the only exceptions being Rome and Venice because I was studying abroad in Italy and wanted to eat as much Italian food as possible). Even when I went to St. Louis for spring break with my friend Gail, we had dinner at HRC. I love looking at the old memorabilia from rockers past and re-reading the story about the original London restaurant where the collecting all started. It was nice being out with my mom. Then we came back to the hotel, hung out with my mom's aunt and uncle who came for the wedding, and now I'm just chilling in bed watching 27 Dresses on tv. All in all, a pretty good day I'd say.

So that's all from my corner of the universe :o)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day #7981 Continued - Dollywood?

Well, after 11 hours of driving through Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky, my mom and I have finally arrived in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Apparently Dollywood is nearby, but unfortunately I don't think we will have the time to take that in on this particular trip. The drive went fine, nothing too crazy or anything. I think the most "exciting" parts were when we were about halfway through Indiana and suddenly there were hills and then I looked at my cell phone a few hours later and realized that we had in fact changed time zones. I don't know why, but for some reason that hadn't occurred to either of us Tennessee was not only south of Schaumburg, but also far enough east where the time would change too.

I'm already about one-third of the way through "Eat Pray Love" and am really enjoying it so far, though it could largely due to the fact that the first part of the woman's journey takes place in Italy so it was making me homesick for Verona and really good pizza. But in a good way!

Anyway, we're here. I've promised to be on my best behavior and at least attempt to act like, you know, a responsible and respectable young lady. Yeah, I'm laughing on the inside, too...

Day #7981 - Really, really early


It's bizarre - I can wake up and actually get up when my alarm goes off at 4:30am, yet on normal days when it goes off at 7:30, I sleep through it until 9.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day #7980 - On the Road Again

Not going to lie, I wasn't going to blog tonight, but I like that today's day number is at a nice, round, divisible-by-ten state. Yeah...welcome to the inner workings of my mind.

Today was pretty meh. Went out to St. Charles to get my hair trimmed up for the first time since January. Let me tell you, it's almost frightening how slowly my hair grows. That was followed by a trip to Borders, coming home and taking notes for my essay, and then packing for the road trip I will be starting in roughly six hours. Woooooot. So not the most action packed of days, but I'll take it.

In other news, I rediscovered both my high school blog as well as my blog from my early years of college. Wow. I'm not even sure that I would have been friends with me, so to anyone who was, even if only for a little while, my sincere thanks. I'd like to think I've grown up since then and while my primary forms of humorous expression still seem to be sarcasm and self deprecation, at least now I'm saying it only when it's actually funny to people other than just me.

One thing I've been able to rekindle this summer already is my love of reading books that are not assigned for homework, but are just fun. I recently finished rereading the novel Austenland (a great read for any fellow Jane Austen addicts out there like myself) and started rereading Pride & Prejudice in the car to St. Charles. However, P&P isn't exactly roadtrip reading, so while I was at Borders I bought the memoir Eat Pray Love - total chick book, but I've heard wonderful things about it. I've always loved biographies and memoirs, and as a bonus, this woman was traveling - she lived in Italy for four months, then India for another four, then spent the remainder of the year in Bali. I'm feeling good about this book.

Well, I should really get to bed. Though I am absolutely a morning person, waking up at 4:30 is still really, really early...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day #7977 - A Few Random Firsts

Why hello there, my few (but hopefully faithful) readers! I know it's been a few days, but lately I have actually been busy! It's crazy, I know, but it happened. Not really doing much out of the ordinary, though there are a few milestones that I have hit that have kept me away from writing here.

First off, I finally finished all of the required reading for my first grad school class! Now you're probably sitting there thinking 'so what? You were an English major - reading is what you do.' Well please let me elaborate. The course that I'm taking right now asks us to do all of the reading before we have to go to Champaign for what the school calls our 10-day "bootcamp" of a class that ends with a final exam. Rather than reading all of these articles on my computer screen, I had them printed and they now fill two 2" binders that are sitting on my dresser. It took me a few weeks, but I finally finished reading them all yesterday, and I'm feeling pretty good as a result. I still have a 500 word paper due before bootcamp in July which will require me to go back and re-read two articles, but I've left myself a comfortable cushion to get that done.

Another thing that I finally completed yesterday, for the first time ever in my life, was a journal. I've tried keeping a journal at multiple times, mostly during junior high, high school, and college, but I would usually only stick with it for a few weeks or months, then get bored or come up with excuses about why I was too busy to write and eventually just stop. Then when I would rediscover the notebook several weeks or months later, I'd usually rip out the pages I had written before (deeming their contents ridiculous and making me cringe) and then start the process all over again. But this journal was different, at least in the fact that I did not keep ripping pages out. I started writing in it on January 1, 2008 so it only took me two and a half years to fill the whole thing, but I think better late than never. It's a little terrifying to look over at my bookshelf and see this hard cover notebook and know that it is filled cover to cover with my thoughts. So even though I finished writing in it, I don't think I'll go back and read it anytime soon for fear of some major cringing and an over-use of the Awkward Starfish.

Other than that, it's business as usual. I went out to St. Charles to visit my friend Katie which was so much fun. She made dinner and we proceeded to watch an MTV documentary about Courtney Love (she has had quite a life) and then switching channels between Will & Grace and The Golden Girls. It was so great to hang out with her, and I'm not just saying that because of my current state of hermit-dom. It also felt great to just get out and drive - nothing quite like wide open spaces getting away from the more crowded suburbs with the sunroof open and the sounds of James Taylor and Carole King streaming out of my stereo - it was a great summer moment.

Keep reading! Sorry for the ramblings, but I really didn't know what to talk about this time. Maybe it'll be better tomorrow, but you'll have to come back to find out :o)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day #7973 - Shades of Beige

Last week, I finally went to see the movie Letters to Juliet with my mother. While it follows the predictable plot line that most romantic comedies use (and I'm a complete sucker for most of the time), this was a movie I wanted to see for different reasons. The second line of William Shakespeare's famous play declares that "In fair Verona, where we lay our scene." Verona, Italy of course being where I studied abroad two years ago and the whole reason that I started this blog in the first place. I was so excited to see this movie even if the story was terrible just because I wanted to see that skyline and the piazzas blown up on the big screen. However, the way that certain aspects of my beloved city and its citizens were portrayed irked me a bit - not a whole lot, but just enough where I felt it warranted space here.

First off, Juliet's courtyard and the letters that started it all. It's actually true that people from all over the world for over a century have been leaving letters for Juliet at her tomb, beneath her balcony, and mailing them to Verona from all over the world seeking her advice (or really, the wisdom of her secretaries). However, the movie bases its whole plot on the fact that every night the letters are removed from the walls of her courtyard - now when I was there, this wasn't done. People are no longer allowed to stick their notes and letters to the walls because they were finding that the chewing gum people were using as an adhesive was ruining the stones. In addition to this fallacy, there were the scenes that took place here. First of all, every time I was ever at the courtyard it was always PACKED with tourists - not exactly the sort of "off the beaten path" setting that the movie made it out to be. And benches for women to sit at while they sobbed and wrote letters? Yeah, not so much. I understand the need for these changes/inaccuracies - it makes for a cuter scene, a better shot, a good plot point. It's the same way that movies show people going to the Trevi Fountain in Rome and it's completely deserted except for the characters - yeah right, like that would ever happen in reality.

Also, while it is true that Italians love soccer, that doesn't mean there are always boys in the street kicking around a soccer ball. I feel like I have now seen this in every movie that's supposed to take place in Italy.

However, none of this bugged me quite as much as the color palate that the costume designer chose for this particular motion picture. Everyone was wearing beige, all the time! Beige, cream, khakis, pastels - if it was light and kind of bland, that's the color they were wearing. And not just the principle cast, but the extras too! I couldn't help but laugh and cry a little bit at the same time - the Italy I went to and the Verona I have pictures of are filled with explosions of COLOR, and vibrant ones at that. Again, I'm sure it was so people weren't clashing all over the place on screen, but I couldn't believe that such a blah color palate was used to show people in the land of love, life, and passion. But I guess que sera, sera, no?

So that's my rambling for this evening. Not exactly an issue of substance, but something I just felt like throwing out there. I'll get better at this with more time, I hope :o)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day #7972 - The Longest Day

Happy Summer Solstice!

Now for those of you who either don't know me or haven't been paying attention, I have an awkward love for anything to do with either solstice or equinox - they make for four wonderful times of the year to celebrate. June 21st means different things to different people - it's (technically) the first day of summer, it's the longest day of the year in terms of hours we have of sunlight, it's the anniversary of the release of the 5th Harry Potter book, etc. Whichever you choose to acknowledge, from now until December 21st, the days will be getting ever so slightly shorter. Also, I know that the whole myth about being able to stand an egg on its end is something that actually goes along with the Spring and Winter Equinox, but I did it today during dinner. Pictures will be coming soon, never fear.

Let me just fill you in a little bit on the crazyness that has been this weekend. Friday there was a storm that came through - not a huge one, but apparently enough to knock out our power. After 56 hours of no electricity, it finally came back last night (of course, right after I had brought my computer and phone over to my grandparents' house so that I might charge everything up, update this for you the readership, and check facebook. Clearly I have my priorities in order).

On a brighter note, Saturday was a day for the ages. While at Woodfield Mall with my mom in search of an acceptable Father's Day present for Dad, we could not help but notice the huge crowd that had formed outside Field of Dreams and the entorage of mall security flanking the door. Seriously, I did not know that Woodfield even employed that many guards. Anyway, upon reading the sign outside the storefront we saw that they were expecting two athletes to come and do autograph signing. About two minutes later who should come down the escalator but Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg of the CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS!!! I was quite excited, I've never seen any members of the team before other than on tv because I've never been to a game. It was really cool. As if that wasn't enough hockey goodness for one day in the off season, later on Mom, Dad, Steven and I went over to Elk Grove for the Rotary Fest parade. I ran into some people from high school which was awesome because it wasn't awkward and then we staked out prime spots on the curb for the main event. As part of his designated day with the trophy, John McDonough decided to share it with his neighbors. I could barely contain my enthusiasm as I saw the STANLEY CUP with my own eyes on a float with "Chelsea Dagger" playing in the background. Yes, pictures were taken - my current facebook pic is me standing in the street grinning like a fool with the Cup behind me. And it wasn't just me - the street was full of Hawks fans and even the rest of my family could not deny how it cool it was to be so close. When the float stopped, the mayor said some nice words as did Mr. McDonough and then that was that. It was nice to have something fun happen in the middle of our power outage.

Father's Day was yesterday, and so I must give a shoutout to my own amazing DAD - You Rock! KB!! We were supposed to have people over here, but we were still without power so instead we brought the party over to Grandma and Grandpa's where the Curtis "funeral" took place, Bocci ball was played, we rolled down the hill, and all around good times were had. Finally after we got home, the lights came on around 9:30. A nice way to end the weekend.

So that's all that's been happening really in my world, loyal readers! Please keep the comments coming - it makes such a difference to know if anybody is looking at this thing. And if there's ever a topic or random factoid on which you'd like to hear my ramblings, please let me know! Bring on those emails and enjoy the rest of your solstice!