How Sweet It Is

January 31, 2012 at 12:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

I just heard these wonderful words and they literally brought tears to my eyes…

“Congratulations on paying your loan in full.  You will be receiving paperwork within 30 days stating that you now owe us nothing.”

Oh.  Man.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will actually be paying student loans for the rest of my life.  However, yesterday I made my last payment to Sallie Mae, who was the carrier of the loan I took out when I went to Africa.  American Education Services will own me, my children, their children and any pets that we all acquire for the rest of time due to the loans I took out to actually go to college but it’s a pretty damn big deal to me to have paid off just a portion of all this.  It only took me five years but one of the best decisions I ever made for myself has been paid in full!

Proof!

Seriously, my study abroad experience in South Africa was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my entire life.  Actually, it may just be the coolest thing hands down, and it was completely and totally worth every penny.  I spent a month learning to track wild animals such as elephants, lions, giraffe, hippo and zebra in the bush and I enjoyed countless hours of simply taking notes and observing primates (mostly baboon and vervet).  I sat in a cage where a dozen baby vervets ran all over me and I spent time with injured baboons as they were being rehabilitated and reacquainted with the wild.  I stumbled upon a 12 foot crocodile as I was about to wade across a river and froze in silence as a herd of elephants became agitated within eyesight in the middle of the night.  It was my first time on the other side of the equator and I gazed upon star constellations I’d never seen before.  I even flew an ultralight while watching various mammals run around just below the aircraft.  I met some incredible people and formed bonds that I’ll always remember.  I was exposed to ideas and cultural aspects I’d never before considered and it forever changed my world view.  I learned more about nature, animals and myself in that month than I thought possible and if I could go back, I’d do so in a heartbeat.  Even if I had to take out a thousand more loans to do it!

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So Much Time, So Little to Do

January 29, 2012 at 2:16 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Wait.  Scratch that, reverse it and there you go.

This weekend I made up for the last few, which have been relatively lackluster and relaxed.  In true form, I managed to keep myself busy from the minute I got off work on Friday to basically now, Sunday afternoon (and I’m not done yet!).  After getting home Friday, I hopped in the shower and did a quick presto-chango act so I could turn around and head back downtown with Scott for a friend’s surprise 30th birthday party.  It was held at Villian’s Bar and Grill, which is a place surprisingly close to my office that served a wide variety of reasonably priced beer along with their food.  We arrived with plenty of time until the birthday girl’s appearance so we went ahead and ordered dinner while we waited.  We both got the portobello sandwich although I opted to get mine in a wrap so it was at least slightly different.  Unfortunately, the sandwich was where it was at as my wrap was falling apart and messy as hell (and I’m already sort of messy so this wasn’t a good combination, especially since we were all hanging around on a giant stage that had minimal tables and only a weird, fancy couch to sit on).  Anyway, Scott’s was better but my friend’s husband brought a giant cookie cake so my appetite was satisfied.  The bar has a cool, rock/goth/music vibe but the servers were all pretty rude – I’m not sure if it was part of the schtick but they could have at least pretended that they were working for tips.  By the time the woman of the hour showed up, though, nothing mattered but making sure she was surprised and surprised she was (at least, that’s what she said).  It was a successful party and I got to see some folks I hadn’t seen since probably this time last year and meet a few new people who were interesting and entertaining.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay all night because a) I had stuff at the Field to do on Saturday and b) we were lame and kind of tired.

True.

So Saturday I got myself ready and walked out to go to the museum.  For those of you blissfully unaware of the goings-on related to Chicago weather, it’s been mild so far and most of the snow we’d had was melted by this weekend.  However, it was colder yesterday morning than it had been and despite the sunny skies, dangerous slabs of ice lurked around certain corners.  I found one of these sneaky patches as soon as I got outside and I was on my ass before I had any idea what was happening.  I sort of twisted my wrist as I fell and I definitely landed on my rear end, plus my pride was a little bruised since both Scott and some random girl from my building witnessed what happened.  I didn’t break anything but I’m still pretty sore, so that’s awesome.  Nevertheless, I managed to go into the museum and successfully lead my very first tour on Maori carved artifacts – even if my group did just consist of one polite young woman from South Korea.  She seemed interested and asked a few good questions and by the time we were finished a few friends from work had arrived so I ended up giving them the entire tour in reverse.  It actually all worked out because if my first group had been really big I probably would have been really nervous and pissing one’s pants while speaking in public is inconvenient, to say the least.

After hanging out at the museum, I swung by the grocery and picked up some food to take to my next event, a potluck Pow-Wow at the American Indian Center of Chicago.  A group of Maori and other New Zealanders are currently in town deinstalling the latest traveling exhibit from the Field, the exhibit on Whales.  It originally came from a museum in Wellington and is going to Ottowa,  next so they’re in the process of transporting it there.  Scott and I were invited to the Potluck by my volunteer coordinator and we were really glad we went because the dinner was good and the entertainment was better.  We watched Indian men and women sing and dance and we joined in some of the circle dances as well.  Another tribe from Hawaii taught us some hula dances and then the gang from NZ busted out their instruments made from bone, shell and wood and played a little of their music.  It was really cool and extra convenient because it was close to home.  After that and a quick trip to one of my favorite places, Trader Joe’s, the night was complete.

Then this morning we headed out to Mystic Celt for the annual Common Pantry volunteer brunch.  Such.  Good.  Food.  We also got t-shirts and who doesn’t love some free clothing?  We all gorged ourselves silly.  But now I can’t move, hence this long and winding blog post.  I’m stuck.  I’m also supposed to be going to the gym in a little bit.  I think now is a good time to take a nap and after the hectic weekend I’ve had, I need it.  Besides, I have a birthday next week – I’m not getting any younger and apparently staying busy and falling on icy sidewalks now takes a lot more out of me!

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Told You So

January 27, 2012 at 12:43 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Movin' on up

Does it still count as grown-up if the first meal I ate here was Fruit Loops?

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Special Delivery!

January 26, 2012 at 12:52 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

I’m growing up.

Up until these last few months, every single stick of furniture in my apartment was a hand me down.  I purchased things at yard sales and secondhand shops, plus I have a plethora of friends and family members who like to pass stuff along.  I’d never even owned any brand new furniture but that was totally fine with me.  Until the dresser I had been given by an old flame started to completely fall apart, that is.  After losing the front panels to two of the drawers, I decided for an upgrade.  Actually this isn’t technically true – I was still using it even as it withered and died and it wasn’t until Scott moved in that I broke down and admitted we could do better.  So we purchased a new dresser at IKEA, I made him put it together while I lounged on the couch with a cocktail and the first bit of furniture in my adult life was installed.

It’s funny how living with a partner makes you reassess the things in your living space.  Such as me being perfectly happy with a dilapidated dresser until someone else started having to look at it every day.  Sharing an apartment also means sharing certain purchases and it was with this in mind that we decided to add the second piece of adult furniture to our lists – a new kitchen table.  Scott, in true bachelor style, was using a card table in his apartment before moving in with me.  I at least had an actual table but it was still time for an upgrade.  Mine came from a lovely friend of mine after she and her husband got married.  I’m not sure how long they had it before giving it to me but it survived my move to Illinois and it is where I faithfully sat for at least a portion of my meals for the last five years.  Because this is sort of an obituary for that table, here’s a photo:

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not clean before taking this photo.

It’s a perfectly suitable table and has eaves that lower to make it a bit smaller.  Unfortunately, during the course of its existence it has begun to warp and one side slants down drastically, no matter how hard I try to level things off.  This means that if we set food or dishes on that particular side (the one strategically placed furthest from view in the photo), there’s a rather large chance they will fall and smash to the ground.  Then I’d be forced to cry over spilled milk (or orange juice…see my previous posts).  Again, this table was fine when it was just me and the occasional dinner guest but it’s a little lackluster now that I have a roommate.  And it’s not exactly like we can have dinner guests ourselves, unless we want to bust out Scott’s old folding chairs.  Which we actually did when my mom and sister came in town last month but due to the warped nature of the table, it was impossible for the four of us to sit comfortably.  So we didn’t.  But all that is about to change, because we’re getting a BRAND NEW table delivered today!  And it’s not from IKEA!

There’s a little dad and son run furniture store down the street from us and we wandered in there a few weeks back.  We found a nice table with four (four!) chairs and after taking a couple of weeks to price shop and look around elsewhere (like true adults…it’s almost scary), we settled on the first one we saw.  The purchase was made last Saturday and by the time I get home tonight, the lovely furniture men will have delivered and assembled (free of charge) the whole thing.  I feel kind of silly for being so excited about this that I devoted an entire blog post to it but well…I can’t help what I get excited over.  And this new table is going to be so nice I might not know what to do with myself.  I’ll have to refrain from scratching it up or sanding it down so it more closely resembles the rest of the furniture and just enjoy the shine of its brand newness.

It’s the little things, right?  And if you want to come over for dinner, let me know – we have a spot for you!

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January Book Club

January 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Last Thursday, two rock star book club ladies and myself met for brews, books and a bite to eat.  Bad weather prevented us from meeting the week before at our originally scheduled time and the weather wasn’t much better this time around, which caused the paltry turnout we had.  I’m not entirely sure February will be better than that but a girl can always hope, right?  One of our members was actually in Mexico so we can’t blame her for not showing…and it’s not like I’ve been jealous of her this week as we’ve had 6 degree temperatures and 8 inches of snow.  No, not at all.

It's a sin to kill a mockingbird. Want to know why? The answer is in a book!

Anyway, the three of us who did manage to make it out were all glad we did.  We met at The Bad Apple  bar and restaurant, a place that I’ve been too once but didn’t really remember.  It’s not too far from home and wasn’t super crowded so we were able to make ourselves comfortable and get down to business.  Food and drink.  I had a light beer whose name I can’t recall but the taste was good enough that I had a second.  For dinner, I had the veggie burger featuring seitan and goat cheese – I’m fairly certain that you can’t mess up a dish so long as there’s some goat cheese in there somewhere and this didn’t prove me wrong.  Cajun style fries accompanied my delicious meat free burger and, while I had originally planned to save half for lunch on Friday, I devoured the whole thing before I knew it and felt absolutely zero regrets.

The book that we read is an old favorite of mine, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  I read this first in high school (where I was also Jem in a class production), again in college and once more after that so this time makes it my fourth go round.  I believe that good books should be returned to throughout life because you’re never the same person that you were when you initially read it and that causes you to take different things from it each time.  If you’ve never read it yourself – you should.  One of the reasons we chose it is because one of our members hadn’t read it and we all agreed that she ought to.  I’m not going to really even review it because it’s a classic and while I didn’t always agree with the voice of the main character, Scout, I do believe that the book is one that everyone should be exposed to.  As I was re-reading it, I remembered the movie starring Gregory Peck.  I’ve never seen this black and white film but immersing myself in the story again made me wish I had, so it’s currently at the top of my Netflix queue.  And once Scott gets through this three-hour Western he recently rented, that movie shall be all mine!

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The Future of The Webpaige?

January 18, 2012 at 9:39 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

I know it’s confusing, all this internet and technological mumbo-jumbo being spouted by politicians, technologists, Hollywood, the news media and just about everyone else (including myself).  I won’t pretend to be an expert or anything of the sort but I have tried to understand what’s happening and why.  It appears that SOPA has been shelved for the moment but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t various other types of bills ready to jump in its place (“The Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011” , I’m looking at you).  I’m not saying that trying to fight copyright infringement or piracy is inherently a bad thing (although it is a whole other can of worms that I won’t get into here) but I do think there are better ways at trying to achieve those things other than the bills that we are currently being presented.  If you have no clue what any of this is even about, suffice to say there are bills trying to be passed through Congress that will essentially allow the government to shut down/and or prosecute any user-based websites.  To put that into perspective, here are just a few of the sites that could be affected and that therefore could possible disappear forever:

  • Wikipedia
  • Facebook
  • Youtube
  • Etsy
  • Twitter
  • Ebay
  • Amazon
  • Craigslist
  • Reddit
  • All blogs (including WordPress which includes the blog you are currently reading)

This list is in no way guaranteed but I can guarantee that a bill like SOPA would completely change the way that the internet as you know it operates.  For a supposed democracy, this bill is appalling and even if the media tries to brush it under the rug, you should keep your eyes and ears open and ensure that you’re educated.  Because if you don’t stand up for your rights, no one else will.

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SOPA

January 18, 2012 at 8:02 am (Uncategorized) ()

Educate yourself and stand up for freedom of speech. This is serious and deserves our attention.

Seriously, contact your representatives.

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Crying Over Spilled Juice

January 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Orange you glad to see this?

I haven’t had a post on public transit happenings lately so I guess I was due for another interesting ride on the CTA.  I’ve actually been spoiled as of late because Scott (the boyfriend) has a car and has been giving me lifts to places I’d normally be hoofing it to.  The Field Museum, for example.  I have thoroughly appreciated the rides there over the past few weeks as early and cold mornings just don’t sit well with me.  However this last Saturday he actually had to work himself so I was on my own, like in the good ‘ol days.  I had a brief walk, a train ride, a transfer, one more train ride and yet another walk before I could go into the museum so I bundled up and headed out.

The first train ride was uneventful but then I switched to the Red Line.  As any Chicagoan can tell you, each train line yields different…experiences, shall we say.  The Red Line runs 24/7 and is known for smelling like urine.  As I settled into my seat, I noticed that the guy next to me had quite the deluxe breakfast featuring Dunkin Donuts donuts, coffee and orange juice.  You may be able to see where this is going.  At one particularly jerky point, the poor guy’s juice flew across the aisle and dumped itself everywhere.  I felt bad for him because he was clearly embarrassed (and he just wasted nearly $2.00) but I didn’t feel too bad because I got splashed in his wake.  Nothing major but then again, any juice on my pants that didn’t at some point belong to me is just a little too much.  So while I watched the ocean of orange ebb and flow down the aisle with the train, I was just thankful I wasn’t completely soaked.  Then the preacher/rapper got on.

You gotta get bapTIZED

You gotta get bapTIZED

Don’t your realize, you gotta get bapTIZED!!

This is what I heard for the next ten minutes.  While I appreciate his attempts at religious conversion, the part of me that was dealing with being on the train at 9am on a Saturday was just not in the mood.  He yelled and flailed his arms around while everyone tried to not make eye contact and he was able to fit such rhyming words as wise, demise, surprise  and prize into his spiel.  At one point he was gesticulating so wildly that he smacked another passenger in the head as they were trying to get off the train – without missing a single beat, he said “I apologize but YOU GOTTA GET BAPTIZED!”.  I’ll admit, I was impressed with his ability to stick with his rhyme scheme as he said sorry for being a public nuisance.

It was about this point that the guy who lost part of his orange juice to my pants turned to me and commented on what a fabulous morning I must be having.  He was right – that song about baptism was in my head all day and I’ve already been baptized myself.  But now I sort of want to do it again.  In orange juice.

CTA – Transit with a Show!

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Snow Show

January 12, 2012 at 12:50 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I’d almost forgotten where I live with this weather we’ve been having lately.  50 degrees and sunshine in January?  Pssht, unheard of around these parts.  However, as anyone with access to the internet, a television, a newspaper or a radio will tell you, SNOW IS COMING AND YOU BETTER BE PREPARED FOR IT BECAUSE APPARENTLY EVERYONE IN THIS CITY HAS FORGOTTEN HOW TO ACT WHEN WHITE STUFF FALLS FROM THE SKY.

This is how I feel today

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a little over all the hype surrounding this, the first “Winter Storm” of winter.  Not that I’m not ready for it – at this point in every other year of my Chicago existence, I was so sick of the sight of snow that I would’ve paid someone good money to place large heaters along my route home so I didn’t even have to look at it.  Now, though, I’m anxious for a little bit of a winter wonderland.  The sparse dustings we’ve had so far have really done nothing other than tease and while I know the newness will quickly wear off, I’m good with a nice old fashioned heavy snowfall.  I just wish the city wasn’t freaking out like it’s the first time it’s ever happened.  If you have warm clothing and a good set of boots there’s really nothing else you need (in case you drive…then you’ll need good tires, plenty of gas and a chair or piece of plywood you can carry around to help save your parking spots).  It’s something we deal with every winter and just because we’ve made it this long without it didn’t mean it wasn’t going to happen.  And while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the downright balmy temperatures we’ve been experiencing, if it means there will be snow in June I shall be pissed.

Regardless, it looks pretty outside right now and I’ll enjoy the novelty of the first real snowfall of the year while I can because, if I know Chicago,  it won’t be a novelty for long.

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Fit to be Dyed

January 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Nice, Easy and Repeat

As I (think) I mentioned, I colored my hair back around Thanksgiving.  That’s what the combination of a few glasses of wine, my sister and the 2 female cousins I only see once a year will do to me.  The color came from a box, as I am far too cheap to have it done professionally and I wasn’t going for something incredibly long lasting anyway.  Nice ‘n Easy, like the box advertised.  I didn’t want to do permanent but was assured by my cousins and sister that it would probably only last a month or so and it was nothing to worry about.  In hindsight, I think that was their wine talking.

I noticed this week (roughly six after the coloring, which I suppose is about right) that it’s starting to fade.  Rather, my white hairs are beginning to make their unwanted appearance.  It’s not like I have super dark roots and bleach blond hair but I do have shiny, wiry white bastards that are loudly proclaiming their right to my head.  I am not amused, especially since their presence is much more noticeable in the darker hair that I gave to myself.

What’s a low-maintenance girl to do?  It looks like my only two options are dying it again or just going with the hair flow of things.  Since I’m cheap and not entirely sure I could convince my boyfriend to assist me with the bottle (and I’m not entirely sure I would trust him to do so), it looks like I’ll be rocking these roots to the end.  But I could do without the white stuff.  However seeing as how I’ve complained about this since they first appeared (April 2007, a month that will live in infamy…to me) and they don’t appear to be going anywhere, I better get used to it.  I know my dad has a head full of white hair, as does his father, but since most of the women in my family have been coloring theirs since long before I was born, I’m not too sure what their real colors would be these days.  I guess that’s the point?

Maybe I’ll just invest in a really nice hat.  After all, those don’t have to be recolored every six weeks.

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