Year in Review

December 31, 2010 at 3:11 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Another year is drawing to an end and it’s time to reflect on the months gone by.  I’ve heard many people hating on 2010, saying what a crap crap crappy year it was all around.  Not for this girl!  This year has actually been one of my best yet and I can only hope that 2011 brings more of the same.

Happy New Year from Chicago!

Since I can, here’s a rundown of why this year rocked:

  • I met some amazing people and am lucky enough that most of them are still a part of my life.  I’m not currently dating anyone (and this is by my own choice) but I had a lot of fun with those I saw during the last 12 months.
  • I took a great trip to Mexico with my mom and sister to celebrate Mom having 20 cancer-free years.  I got to zip-line through a jungle and rappel down a waterfall, not to mention drink on a beach.
  • My writing, which last year consisted of one article in one magazine a month, has turned into multiple pieces that are in syndication.  I’m no Carrie Bradshaw or Dan Savage but I’m earning some cash on the side by doing something I love.
  • I took a risk with quitting my old job and it paid off – I’m now working in the Loop and I don’t have to deal with the pointless stress that place put me through ever again.
  • My family is still healthy and safe.  That alone could’ve made my year.
  • I’m involved with two different volunteer positions at my all-time favorite Chicago institution, the Field Museum.  After trying to get my foot in the door there for over 3 years, I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to hang out and learn there on a regular basis.
  • I took an interesting course that helped me to decide to go back to school.  I start next week!
  • And best for last…if you read last year’s review you know that I had a very close friend who was battling a drug addiction.  I’m more than happy to report that she’s been clean and sober for almost 10 months!  Seriously, this is huge and one of the absolute best things that’s ever happened, let alone in 2010.  I had a little reunion with her over Christmas and my heart damn near burst because I’m so proud of her and happy with how she’s doing.

Seriously, there’s just about nothing this year brought that didn’t make me happy.  Sure, my cat getting diagnosed with diabetes wasn’t the greatest but we’re managing, and if that’s the worst thing I’ve gone through then I know how lucky I am.  If this year didn’t treat you well, I’m sorry and I hope that the next one does you better (I don’t know why but I always seem to favor even years vs. odd – hopefully this doesn’t mean 2011 will bring a change in my luck).  As for me, I have big plans for the New Year.  While I resolved a long time ago to quit making resolutions, I do have a few ideas for things I’d like to work on.  Some of them are personal goals which I would go into but hey, they’re personal.  I will say that I’m excited to go back to school and I plan on going to Canada at some point (I’ve been doing well with getting out of the country once a year and I’m planning something extra big for 2012, so Vancouver seems a good bet for 2011).  I’ll also be finding a new apartment/neighborhood come Spring, so that’s something to look forward to.  If I can just maintain everything else and keep my family and friends healthy and safe then I’ll be happy with whatever the New Year may throw my way.  Bring it on!

I do sincerely hope that everyone has a great night and even better New Year.  Be safe and remember that only losers drink and drive!

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Idiots, Beer and Fire

December 30, 2010 at 11:54 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

As promised, today’s post will tell the tale of how I once saved a house from burning down.  Really.

During my last year in college, I lived in an old house with a rather large front porch.  The porch came with a swing and we added a couch, so needless to say I spent a large amount of time out there.  Man, I miss having a porch…maybe my next apartment will allow me to sit outside again.  I really like to read outside and right now the only place I can do that is on the concrete next to my basement.  Not ideal.  Anyway, I was on said porch one evening, talking to my Mom on my cell (as I often did) when I looked to my left and noticed flames shooting up on the front porch of a neighbor.  I thought someone was grilling something but when the flames got larger and no actual person appeared, I thought again.  After telling my mom I had to go because my neighbor’s porch was on fire, I hung up the phone and dashed down the street.

Can prevent your neighbor's house from burning down

Their porch was definitely on fire and not a soul was in sight.  At this point, the fire was still small enough so I could hop around it and bang on the front door.  When no homeowner appeared, I ran around to the side of the house where a window faced the living room.  I saw some guy walking up the stairs and started hitting the window and yelling something along the lines of “Hey, your house is on fire!”, which finally got his attention.  I ran back to the front of the place as he was walking out, obviously a little surprised.  At this point the fire had melted a plastic lawn chair and was rapidly spreading.  The guy called his roommate a dumbass, told me he was going to get some water and ran back inside.  Since I had nothing better to do, I waited and tried to stop the flames with my incredible mental capabilities.  It did not work.  While I was attempting that, a different guy appeared.  He looked confused and said that he had been lighting bits of paper on fire a little while ago but thought they had all gone out.  Uh, what?  Yeah, that’s what I thought too.  Fire Starter was not the sharpest crayon in the box and after he admitted to starting the blaze, he reached for a beer bottle sitting on the railing.  At this point I seriously began to question his intelligence and before I could stop him he poured what was left in the bottle over the fire.  This did not help things and in fact caused the flames to jump a little higher.  Duh.  By now the other roommate, Water Boy, had reappeared with a bucket and doused the fire once and for all.  The damage wasn’t too bad and beyond the lawn chair that melted to their porch and some burned wood, it was nothing their security deposit wouldn’t cover.

So we stood around awkwardly for a moment, assessing the situation.  Water Boy and Fire Starter thanked me profusely for saving their house and potentially their lives, to which I said if they ever saw my house on fire they could do the same for me.  Then Water Boy turned on Fire Starter and began to unleash an impressive amount of rage at his stupidity.  Since my job there was done, I walked off into the night in search of a cat to help down from a tree or perhaps an elderly woman to escort across the road.  Or maybe I went home, called my mom back and played fetch with my cat.  Either way it was my good deed for the decade day.

And that’s how I earned my badge in Fire Safety.

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Grace Under Fire

December 29, 2010 at 12:50 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

No, I’m not going to blog about the 90’s sitcom starring Brett Butler (though I have watched a fair amount of that show in my day).  I know my last post was Christmas related but I had one more story that I feel is worth sharing.  It’s about how I saved my grandparent’s house from burning down on Christmas Day.

Okay, okay…I wasn’t the only one who tackled the flames but at least I didn’t cause it in the first place.  Everything started hours before most of the family showed up…being the good granddaughter that I am, I’ve made it a tradition to head over to the grandparent’s place early to help get things set up and to prepare my Papa’s world family famous dumplings (the same ones that burned my chin…they’re so good it’s tough to wait for them to cool).  This year was no different and myself, my second cousin and my uncle were there way ahead of schedule to help get the ball rolling.  The

Believe it or not, none of the food was ruined

dumplings were simmering, three different casseroles were baking and the table was set so we allowed ourselves a moment to sit down and chat.  My second cousin and I were talking about who knows what when we both spotted flames from the corner of our eyes.  Now, I love this woman to death but truth be told she’s a good size girl…we’re talking much more than 300 lbs here.  And she jumped up and was across the kitchen faster than I would’ve thought possible (she later said the same thing herself).  She opened the door to the oven which of course allowed flames to shoot out into the kitchen, so I ran up behind her and slammed it shut again.  As I did that, my uncle appeared from nowhere and turned the whole thing off.  Apparently one of the casseroles (for the record it was my cousin’s, not mine) was a bit too full and started leaking juice onto the bottom of the oven, which then burst into flames much like I would if I went to church twice in one day.

Obviously, it was a combined effort that prevented the entire kitchen from melting but I felt good about my role in things nonetheless.  I had all of the doors and windows open to air the place out within moments and my uncle and I managed to get the tin foil lining from the bottom of the oven out without spilling any of the greasy fire remnants, so that was good.  The entire place was soon smoke-free and by the time the rest of the family started showing up no one would’ve guessed the day almost turned into a nightmare.  Until my uncle and I told them about my cousin’s casserole, that is, because what good is family if you can’t make fun of each other?

As much as I like to live on the wild side, I hope that’s the closest I ever come to a real fire ever again.  I once saved a neighbor’s house from burning down in college (this was much more dangerous…their front porch was going up in flames and no one had a clue) but I think that’s a story for another day.  Like tomorrow.  Because I still have leftovers and since those casseroles didn’t burn they should probably be meeting their end in my stomach instead.

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Christmas Shenanigans

December 28, 2010 at 2:02 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

I’m home, happy and exhausted.

My Christmas was everything I was hoping and needing to be, plus just a little bit more.  I spent four nights in my childhood home (but not my childhood room, as that no longer has a bed in it…I alternated between my sister’s old room and the couch) and while my time visiting family never feels long enough, it was good while it lasted.  I got to spend some quality time with my mom, sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and cousin’s kids, not to mention a few old friends who are near and dear to my heart.  I also spent a little not-so-quality time breaking up fights between my cat and my mom’s own three, so that was fun.

Speaking of cats, I was treated to a symphony of cries and wails for five hours each way of my trip.  You may remember that I rented a car, which seemed like a good idea at the time.  And it did make the most sense, especially given the

Cat ride from hell

amazing amount of loot I made out with (I think Santa forgot his medication and assumed I was much better than I really was).  Driving also meant I was able to bring back leftovers, and if you have family who cook as well and as much as mine does, you know how important that is.  I came back with two full bags of mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, corn casserole, sweet potatoes, stuffing, pie, cookies and tea.  So I suppose that made it worth the grand total of 10 hours spent listening to my cat sound as though someone had ripped off her tail and smacked her around with it.

The car I rented was the most basic of the basic but it did have a CD player.  Before hitting the road, I busted out my old CD collection from high school so I could listen to some sweet tunes on the ride.  They’re roughly 10 years old and brought back some good memories.  Unfortunately, I didn’t find one that shut up my cat.  Over the course of my eternally long ride with my whining cat, I determined that she did not appreciate the following:

  • Third Eye Blind
  • Eve 6
  • Tom Petty
  • No Doubt
  • The Wallflowers (actually, during Sixth Avenue Heartbreak she briefly quit crying.  I tried to put it on repeat but it didn’t last)
  • Green Day
  • Everclear
  • De La Soul
  • Weezer
  • John Coltrane

An eclectic mix, sure, and not one that ceased the howls coming from the backseat.  At one point I considered pulling over and wringing a furry little neck but I was making good time so decided against it.

At least I have my leftovers.  And a burn on my chin from taste testing my Papa’s dumplings, but that’s a different story.

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Tis the Season…

December 23, 2010 at 11:37 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

…to go home for the holidays.

I will be leaving the office early today, picking up a car and embarking on my voyage down to Indiana.  I don’t usually

This will be my contribution to Christmas dinner...the crust didn't turn out exacly like I planned but if no one else eats it you can bet I will!

rent vehicles for the trip home but seeing as how it would cost almost the exact same to board my cat and take a bus as it would to rent a car and take her with me, I opted for the latter (sadly, leaving her at my apartment just isn’t an option post-diabetes diagnosis).  Not that I don’t enjoy the spontaneity a Megabus trip can throw into one’s travel plans, but I don’t often have the chance to enjoy an open road.  Plus, what with it being Christmas and all, I’ll be traveling with a bit more cargo.

I don’t know about your holiday traditions but mine include lots of delicious food, visiting with family and opening presents first thing in the morning while sipping mimosas under the tree (to be fair, this last part has only been a tradition for the last few years.  Before that it was Bloody Marys).  I’m excited to go home but not so excited to finish all of my Christmas shopping on Friday.  I did this to myself last year too…perhaps next year I’ll have it all out of the way by Halloween.  Sure, and Santa is bringing me a Johnny Depp look-a-like to help stuff my stocking.

In honor of the holiday, I shall be taking a break from ye olde blog.  This has more to do with a lack of internet at my mom’s house than anything else but you know what they say…absence makes the heart grow fonde.  Perhaps I’ll find a time to post between now and next week but it’s not likely.  That said, I hope all of you have a safe and merry holiday filled with good food and better company.  Now go deck those halls!

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Clouded Vision

December 22, 2010 at 1:46 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I just want to say how utterly surreal it is to work on the 51st floor of a building on a very cloudy day.

That was yesterday.  The sky was low here in Chicago and when I walked into the office it felt like someone had thrown a sheet over all of the windows.  Where I’m used to seeing a view of buildings and water for miles and miles all I could

It was almost like working in a cloud

actually see was a bunch of cloud.  This was my first time working in the new office on such a blustery day and while it was sort of cozy in a we’re-the-last-ones-on-the-face-of-the-earth feeling, I must say I prefer the view.  It was weird knowing that just beyond my field of vision lay dozens (hundreds?) of huge, ominous buildings.  I thought about how pilots deal with zero visibility all the time and it freaked me out, mostly because I kept envisioning things lunging at me through the haze and I was just standing in the lobby (the Stephen King book I’m reading may or may not have helped with this).

I suppose it’s fitting that the weather was what it was, as yesterday was also the beginning of winter solstice.  As if Mother Nature needed to remind me that it’s winter.  But at least the days become shorter from here on out!

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Class, Here I come!

December 21, 2010 at 1:47 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Well, it’s official – I am enrolled for the Winter Session in Northwestern’s School of Continuing Studies.  This was my Christmas present to myself and there’s no going back now (they have my money).  This is very exciting for me as getting a certificate in Museum Studies is something I’ve been wanting to do for quite some while (though in my dream world I’d be going to get my Masters…but hey, I do what I can do) and I’m glad I finally navigated their website and got myself registered.  I kept encountering issues with the site but today all was cleared up and I have an official schedule. Sure, it’s just one night a week but that’s pretty much all my hectic schedule will allow these days.

I guess this is a mascot?

This is the first of three 10-week courses I’ll be taking in order to obtain my professional certificate.  Granted, this is the one class that sounds the least interesting to me (marketing and management…technically up my alley but not what I would want to do within the confines of a museum) but I guess it’s good to go ahead and get it out of the way.  I’ve actually already been in contact with the professor and it doesn’t seem too bad.  She has over 15 years experience at the Shedd Aquarium so I’m sure I’ll be able to learn a thing or two from her!ok

This museum stuff is seriously cool business.  I’ve been orienting myself to the docent position at the Field Museum over the last month or so and will continue to do that for quite a while (and I promise, one day I’ll post a big old huge blog about it).  I took some out-of-towner friends there this past weekend and gladly spent 5 hours giving them a general highlights tour (which I’m sure they found slightly obnoxious but hey, they didn’t tell me to quit).  I’ve been having more dates with the museum than I have with actual people and to be honest, that’s okay with me.  And now I get to go back to school to learn more!  This course won’t be too assignment-heavy but I am excited to get back in a classroom for more than two days.

Do I need a backpack?  New clothes?  Someone to take a photo of me as I walk through the door on the night of January 4th?  At least I have a few weeks to figure it out…

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Progress (little by little)

December 20, 2010 at 1:58 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

On Saturday, the Senate voted to repeal the 17-year old Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act in the U.S.  Military.  DADT was put into play by Bill Clinton, who had hoped it would allow gay and lesbian men and women to serve within the military a bit more freely.  However, over 13,000 soldiers have been discharged due to their sexuality alone since DADT was created and it forced anyone else with same sex preferences to keep that basic part of themselves hidden.  Imagine serving in a war overseas and not being able to talk about missing your boy or girlfriend.  Those servicemen and women who were discharged due to this bill were denied from serving the country they love based on who they happened to fall in love with.  They were denied from serving a country that they aren’t even allowed to get married in (talk about kicking someone when they’re down).  But things are changing.

The big vote came after an exhaustive Pentagon review  found that allowing gays to serve openly posed a “low risk” of disruption and that a large majority of troops expected that it would have little or no effect on their units.  This is not shocking to anyone who happens to know anyone who is gay but it is shocking that it was such a concern for so damn long.  The bill has now been sent to President Obama, who will sign the entire thing into effect.  GLBT’s already in the military are discouraged from coming out just yet though because until everything is said and done, there’s still a small chance they could get in trouble for being who they are.  And even though the votes are in, things won’t be changing overnight.  Regardless, this is something that the Obama administration has promised to do for a long time and it’s a huge relief in the gay community to see it actually happening.  So, here’s a huge THANK YOU to the President and all of the Congresspeople who voted to make this happen – it’s something that should never have been in place to begin with and it’s about damn time it’s over!

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Happy Story to Warm Your Heart

December 17, 2010 at 12:23 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Since the temperature has dropped and people are freezing, here’s a heartwarming story for you to round out the week:

He's making his list...

Dave Tally has no home and few possessions. He rarely has enough to eat. So, when the Tempe, Arizona man discovered an abandoned backpack with $3,300 in cash last week, the temptation to keep the money for himself must have been unbelievable—he could have rented an apartment, picked up some groceries, maybe even fixed his bike. But instead, he did the unexpected: he turned the money into the Tempe Community Action Agency, where he volunteers.

The organization was able to find the source of the cash: a student who’d been planning to use the money to purchase a used car. The student was grateful to have the money returned—and once word spread about Tally’s good deed, the homeless man was richly rewarded.

Strangers around the country have been moved by Tally’s selfless deed, and have sent him donations, totaling far more than the contents of the backpack. He’s been offered jobs to help him get back on his feet. A local dentist has donated a new set of teeth, and a lawyer is working pro bono to help Tally handle an old court case. Most impressively, the city of Tempe proclaimed last Thursday to be Dave Tally Day.

But for Tally, a man who lost his job and home a decade ago after a drunk-driving charge, the best reward he’s received is the newfound respect that he and the homeless community have gained as a result of his actions.

The other day, he said, one of his friends on the street called out: “Thanks, man. You made us all look good.”

All together now – awww.  And what a way to get on Santa’s Nice List!

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Overheard at the Office

December 16, 2010 at 1:45 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

So I was sitting in my cubicle this week, working away like usual.  It’s generally pretty quiet around the office and I can hear people on the phone quite often.  I could see a client out of the corner of my eye and he seemed to be making a commotion in the lobby, which isn’t that far from where I sit.  He was on his phone and I guess his connection wasn’t that great (I don’t know why but the cell service up there pretty much sucks) and so he got louder, because of course that always works when the reception is bad.  This is what I heard him say:

“I don’t know why you can’t hear me!  I’m up here in the Sears Tower – I’m on top of the world, Ma!”

There was also elaborate gesticulation. 

The man who said this was a stereotypically “macho” guy and this was basically the funniest thing that happened at the office all week.  Is that sad?  I don’t know about that but I do know that my cubicle-neighbors and I got a good chuckle.  I can’t laugh too much though because he was genuinely excited and that’s sometimes how I feel about being up there every day too!

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