Whirlwind Weeks

October 25, 2016 at 2:58 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

It is now 11 days until I get married. IT IS NOW 11 DAYS UNTIL I GET MARRIED! Holy crap!

And really, I think most everything is finished and ready to go! Final payments have mostly been made, confirmations are set and the sorry little shell of a man who almost messed with my hotel bookings will burn in hell for eternity. All is good to go!

On top of this whole wedding-planning business, I’ve also been running a few weekend volunteer events for my office, hosting various friends and family members for entire

whirlwind

My life.

weekends, training for the new Tattoo exhibit at The Field Museum, attending fancy parties also at The Field Museum, volunteering at the food pantry, watching actor Bryan Cranston give a talk about celebrity, acting and life in general, watching in disgust at the debates and current state of American politics, attending two book clubs, cheering for the Cubs as the go to the WORLD FREAKING SERIES and trying to get bits of sleep when I can. Oh and that list is just from the past few weeks. In fact, this coming weekend is the first one I don’t have booked completely solid since September 3rd. So I’m going to take it easy, wrap up some wedding stuff and hopefully catch up on some sleep because oh yeah, next weekend I’m getting married!

I’d like to write individual posts for many of the events I mentioned above and maybe one day I’ll get around to it. Suffice to say, most everything I’ve been doing is good and/or fun so I don’t have too many complaints, other than I do this to myself. What’s up with that? Oh well, as my momma always says, “I can sleep when I’m dead”

GO CUBS!!

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Beetle-Brained

June 7, 2016 at 10:52 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Do you want to hear something cool? Because I’m going to tell you something cool. Or cool to me at least and since you’re reading my blog, that’s what counts.

You probably know I’m a bit of a regular around The Field Museum. The overnights I worked this year have come to a close for this season and on our last one I was able to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum’s insect collection. There were lots of butterflies and roaches and all kinds of other bugs but the one that really grabbed my attention was this teeny tiny little beetle. Why is it important? Because it was collected by Charles Darwin himself.

Capture.PNG

Hope this doesn’t bug you.

 

If you don’t know Charles Darwin is, please do a Google search. Or smack yourself in the face with an encyclopedia.

Anyway, this beetle wasn’t given to the museum by Darwin since he died before it was built and all, but it was acquired by a German insect collector, who later sold it to the Field. No one is quite sure how the German guy got it but that’s kind of the story behind a lot of the museum’s artifacts so it’s not too out of the ordinary. It was originally collected in 1834 during an expedition to Chile and you can read the entire story about it here. It’s rare that the museum has this at all and it’s not really shown to the public – most of the insect collections are used by other scientists for research purposes and I feel lucky I got to see it. It’s sure an awesome amount of history inside of a little bug!

 

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Dozing Over and Out

May 17, 2016 at 2:16 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Goodnight Moon, Goodnight Museum

Another season of the overnight program at The Field Museum has drawn to a close and my sleep patterns can finally return to normal. These events (where kids and families/Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts/groups come to stay a Friday evening in the museum) are always a blast but they’re often exhausting, especially since I work overnight after a full day of my real, actual job at the office. The kids have a complete blast though and that makes it more than worth it for me (or at least worth it enough to keep going!). I stayed the entire night more this year than I have any other and here were some of my own, personal highlights:

  • Sleeping above a (real, dead) mummy in a giant stone mastaba
  • Spending two hours in the middle of the night consoling a sick kid while her dad broke down their camp and tried to contact an Uber for a ride home – on the coldest night of the year
  • The conversations said sick kid and I had about the entire Harry Potter universe
  • The phenomenal soy butter and jelly sandwiches we served at snack (because allergies)
  • Seeing a beetle that Darwin himself collected on a behind-the-scenes tour
  • The hall with various haunted artifacts that made some weird noise on our last overnight – the security guard eventually said that since no motion detectors were going off, we were going to ignore the noise and hope it went away
  •  The little girl who borrowed a few pennies from me to use in the penny press machine and then returned to give me one just for myself
  • The parents who (sort of) jokingly ask about sneaking Bailey’s into their coffee
  • The little boy who came up to me all night long to let me know he could still see me and my dinosaur shirt – we ended up getting a picture together of our matching dino tees
  • Trying to go take a picture of the mummies in the middle of the night and being too scared to go in there by myself (this was a recurring event)
  • Walking through different exhibit halls armed with only a flashlight to do my nightly rounds
  • The way one particular room smelled with a group of pre-teen boys sleeping inside (this wasn’t a highlight but the combination of sweat, dirty socks and body odor is something I’ll never forget)
  • The little boy who had a nosebleed from hell that took almost an hour to end
  • The mom who freaked out about having to sleep in the bird exhibit and demanded to be moved or suffer a panic attack (we moved her)
  • Another little boy who had the most glorious mullet I’ve seen this far of Southern Indiana – and a shirt proclaiming him to be part of a wolf pack to match it
  • Changing into pj’s and brushing my teeth in public restrooms before bed, only to wake up 2.5 hours later
  • The little boy who found a rat tail in his owl pellet and then donated it to the museum so we could show other kids
  • Really – pretty much all the interactions with the kids were my highlights. They had so much fun and it was awesome to be able to see science from their point of view. The parents…most of them were cool but acted worse than children themselves!

All in all, it was a successful season and I’m grateful that I was able to be a part of it. Now I have half a year off to just focus on regular Docent duties…and if I can remember to leave my pj’s at home for the next few months, I’ll be okay!

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Five Year Club

April 19, 2016 at 1:17 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Last Wednesday, I attended the annual Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony and Reception for The Field Museum. I go to these every year because they’re a great reward for the service we docents provide to the museum, plus there’s delicous food and an open bar. It’s a win-win all around!

This year was a little different, though, in that I’ve now officially been a docent for five years and I received a little award during the ceremony! I got called on stage and took a picture with the President of the museum, then received a certificate of recognition and an engraved keychain with my years of service. It was all really nice and meant a lot to me and I am so proud and grateful to be part of that institution.

5-year-anniversary

Yes, they had cupcakes too!

I remember the first time I went to The Field Museum, which was on a college spring break trip to Chicago with my roommates at the time. I was blown away by the entire place and rather mad at myself for never having been there before. When I moved to Chicago, I instantly became a member and spent many a weekend wandering around the place by myself. It was glorious. Then I became friends with someone who was doing an internship at the museum and I remember being so jealous of the badge she wore that got her in the staff entrance on the side of the building. It was my grand hope of all hopes to one day have such a badge for myself and guess what? I’ve had one for over five years now!

How did it happen? Well, I took a night class on Museum Studies at Northwestern University and at one point we had a guest speaker from the Field. She left us with her email address and I unabashedly emailed her and told her my love of the museum and basically offered to pick up garbage if I could just hang out there some more. She put me in contact with the Volunteer Coordinator and after a brief interview, I found myself a docent! Since then, I’ve worked in a specific handful of permanent exhibits and also worked in almost every traveling exhibit we’ve had come through. I’ve also branched out and am now a contractor with a couple of other programs, including the overnights I work there with kids and families. In short, I’ve been luckier than I could have ever hoped for and I am so happy that my dream came true!

As much as I love helping out the museum, it’s helped me tremendously as well. Being a part of the Field has connected me more to this city than I would have thought and I’ve met some incredible people, heard amazing stories and learned a great deal about myself and the world around me. And if my luck holds out, I’ll get to spend many more years wandering the halls and talking the ear off of anyone who will listen to me!

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TGIF

October 2, 2015 at 9:14 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

It’s been quite a week.

On Tuesday, I attended a luncheon/30th Anniversary Celebration for the Chicago Foundation for Women. There were roughly 1500 people in attendance and we had speakers who told us the impact that this organization has made in their lives. The Mayor of Chicago also spoke and the key speaker was Ashley Judd (yup, the actress). It was an informative and inspirational event and I’m really lucky that my company had a table that allowed me to go!

I may not eat chicken but I can beat it!

Tuesday evening, I had a meeting for the Volunteer Committee I’m on for the food pantry. We had our biggest annual fundraiser last Friday (and yours truly may have had too good a time…Saturday was a little rough for me) so we had a lot to discuss. I write a newsletter for the Pantry once a month so I’ve been working on that this week too (not to mention the old magazine articles that I still write each month but those are so habitual I barely register them anymore).

Last night, Thursday, I worked an event sponsored by the Chicago Ideas Week at the Field Museum. I basically hung out in one of my favorite exhibits for a few hours after work and talked to hundreds of teenagers who wandered through. It was fun but not going to lie, my voice was leaving me by the end of the night.

Today, I’m leaving work early to attend an outing with some of the women I work with. We’re going to The Chopping Block, which provides cooking classes and a cooking class is something I’ve never done. Prepare for highlights on that sometime next week – at least, if I don’t somehow manage to cut off a finger. My culinary skills are a little haphazard so we’ll see how this goes!

Finally, tomorrow I’ll be working at the first event with Boy Scouts at the Field Museum for the season (I have three total this month). I’m teaching groups all about archaeology and we’re doing mock digs. I totally dig it! Yes, I went there. It should be fun but it’ll be a long day.

What will I do on Sunday? Probably hide from all adult responsibilities for as long as I can. At the laundromat. Hopefully with all fingers intact!

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Fantastic Fourth

July 8, 2014 at 8:21 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Man, I love my mom.

She came up for a visit this past weekend and from Thursday evening until Monday afternoon, I got to enjoy her company.  We managed to do all kinds of things in that time, including but not limited to:

  • Drinking beer while shopping at the grocery store
  • Grocery store shopping a record of four times in four days (we didn’t drink each time, I promise)

    I'm not super religious but God this is beautiful

    I’m not super religious but God this is beautiful

  • Enjoying home-cooked dinner and breakfast (gotta love pancakes!)
  • Pampering ourselves with professional manicures and pedicures
  • Imbibing in beer at Hopleaf, a very well-known Chicago tavern
  • Watching three hours of fireworks at the park down the street from my apartment (okay, we watched for about an hour and a half while we enjoyed a huge picnic.  The fireworks went on much longer than that but since those shooting them off were drunk and sloppy by that point, we packed up and headed home)
  • Walking through The Field Museum, ate Chicago hot dogs (veggie for me), took a water taxi across Lake Michigan and wandered through the Stained Glass Museum on Navy Pier
  • Eating a meal at Bad Apple, another awesome Chicago restaurant
  • Sunday brunching at a bar by my place while enjoying their unlimited Bloody Mary Bar
  • Visiting with a friend of mine who recently had a baby and agreed that, while he’s cute as hell, it’s probably good I don’t have one
  • Watching the following movies (not in a row): Hunger Games Mockingjay, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Major League (thanks, Netflix!)
  • Reviving the plants I had that were dying a slow and sad death
  • Walking all over my neighborhood and all those that surround me
  • Talking – lots and lots of talking (just ask Scott!)

Mom hasn’t been up here for a visit for at least a year so this was kind of a big deal.  I had an absolute blast with her and wish she could’ve stayed longer but alas, the real world doesn’t stop just because I want to spend some time with my momma.  We had the best time ever though and that’ll have to hold us over until I go home again later this summer.  It was seriously a perfect long weekend – great weather, great company and a great visit.  Thanks, Mom!

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Close But No Cigar

June 3, 2014 at 6:57 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

On Friday night, I happened to be in the right place at the right time and I think I saved prom for two stressed out teenagers.

Hopefully they made it.

I had an event for kids and families that I was working at The Field Museum and I finished up at about 9pm.  As I walked around the front of the building waiting for Scott to come pick me up, I noticed a car pull up and stop.  Two very dressed up teenagers got out (the girl was carrying a bouquet of flowers) and they ran up the steps towards the front of the building.  Another, older, man got out of the car to watch and I could tell he was dressed up as well.  I thought perhaps the kids wanted a photo or two in front of the museum and as I passed the man I commented on how nice they looked.  He said they were going to a prom at the Shedd Aquarium and since the Shedd is basically next door to the Field, I still didn’t think much of it.  We chit-chatted for a moment (he was the chauffer for his son and his son’s date) and then I realized the kids were trying to get in the front door of the Field.  Since the Field was full of small children running around making arts and crafts and taking photos of dinosaurs, I figured something was off.  I told the man they wouldn’t be able to enter the museum due to a kid’s event and that’s when he looked panicked.  He had apparently gotten confused on which museum was which and the poor kids who were expecting a prom got a locked front door (and they were about to get security) instead.  He immediately started yelling and waving at them, telling them to hurry up and get back in the car because they were already late.  I gave him directions to the right museum and he thanked me profusely, saying he was so glad we started talking because they never would’ve figured it out.  I felt like a superhero and watched like a fairy godmother as they sped off in the right direction.  Here’s hoping the rest of their prom went smoothly and was full of dancing, laughter and an age-appropriate amount of partying and fondling!

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Read All About It!

November 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

The Field Museum is known for their extensive and impressive collections as well as many of their famous exhibits, but something that a lot of people don’t realize is that actual scientists work for the Field, too.  They do tons of research, data collection and experimentation and their discoveries often help science in general move forward or at least better explain the past.  Case in point:  Siats meekerorum.

Yay science!

You can read all about it here but basically, scientists from the Field recently helped discover an entirely new dinosaur, one that was a significant precursor to the famous T-Rex.  It’s pretty exciting because it’s the first bit of hard evidence of a new species of dinosaur in North America and will hopefully eventually help prove that dinosaurs were equally dispersed throughout the continents instead of residing in one specific area.  Plus – scientists from the Field were a part of this discovery!

The specimen is in no way as intact as Sue, the T-Rex in the main hall of the Field, but that’s mostly because Sue is one of the largest and most complete fossil records ever found.  Still, the new dino is pretty exciting.  I’m not sure if it will eventually be displayed at the Field or what but it will probably take a very long time before the study of the remains is complete, so they have a while to think about it.  I’d love to see it though!  And until I do, the artist’s rendition will have to do.

 

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1893 World’s Fair

October 24, 2013 at 12:49 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

You can't really tell but the people in the background were moving around.  So cool!

You can’t really tell but the people in the background were walking about. So cool!

If you’ve ever read the book Devil in the White City, you’re probably familiar with the 1893 Columbian Exposition, or World’s Fair, that took place in Chicago to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival to the New World.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should because it was kind of a big deal.  Chicago had just endured the Great Fire a little over 20 years before the fair and we were up against New York for the bid to host.  At this point in history, Chicago was mainly considered an industrial city with no real culture to speak of.  At least, that’s how New Yorkers felt.  When we beat them for the hosting opportunity it created a bit of a scandal because this fair was supposed to show how ahead of the times the United States was (the previous World’s Fair was in Paris and debuted the Eiffel Tower, so there was a lot to live up to).  So we won and Chicago architects got to work, basically putting together an entirely new city in a few years.  And I mean that literally – the fair took place over about 600 acres and new buildings were erected just for the fair.  They weren’t expected to outlast the event and most did not, with the exception of the Museum of Science and Industry Building.  It was pretty impressive and basically blew everyone away.

The Field Museum was basically founded off of the contents of the fair, as many of the cultural artifacts procured were donated to form a permanent collection.  To highlight this, the Field put together their own brand new temporary exhibit that is all about the World’s Fair (and no, it does not touch on the murderous man featured in Devil in the White City…).  We docents were trained on it over the weekend and it was extremely cool.  There are artifacts there that have not been seen in over 100 years and the exhibit really makes you feel like you’re back in 1893 and wandering through on your own.  Many products we know and love had their first exposure in the Fair: Cracker Jack, Aunt Jemima, modern electricity, Shredded Wheat, PBR beer and the Ferris Wheel.  Yup, the Ferris Wheel, which was the USA response to the Eiffel Tower.  The very first one ever was seen at the Fair and stood 250 feet tall while holding over 2,000 people at once.  There were roughly 35 giant train sized cars that held about 60 people each and it took nearly 20 minutes for one rotation.  It was bigger than the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier today by about 100 feet, if you can imagine that.  And we have no reports of anyone dying while riding it!  Amazing indeed.

It’s interesting because the way that the anthropologists went about getting collections back then is NOT how they do it today.  Their view was more ethnocentric back in the day, meaning that if something or someone was even the slightest bit strange, it was deemed “exotic” i.e. “savage” or “barbaric”.  This lead to cultural insensitivity in now-shocking proportions.  For example, people from other cultures and countries were basically brought to Chicago to live and show what their life was like – they were on display 24/7 during the fair and not exactly given a boat ticket home after that.  It’s appalling to us nowadays but the exhibit does a decent job of giving us the whole truth, as ugly as it is.  See, back then scientists genuinely thought that other cultures were dying out and we had to take what we could to preserve them for future generations.  This is obviously not the case but in the age before the internet or TV, it was hard to showcase different plants, animals, people or places without having tangible evidence and so people tried to justify it.  It was certainly not the right way to go about things and I was glad it was addressed in the exhibit.

Even the water and flags moved around!

Even the water and flags moved around!

Also in the Field’s exhibit are giant screens projecting moving photographs.  This was one of my favorite parts.  They basically took photos of the fair, dressed people in time period clothing and placed them in front of green screens and then digitized it using fancy computer technology so that it looks like these old time photos are videos.  All of us docents were kind of blown away by that in particular.

There are many things to see and experience in this exhibit but don’t take my word for it – the entire thing runs until September 2014 so there’s plenty of time to check it out!

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The Cave of Lascaux – Scenes from the Stone Age

March 22, 2013 at 11:36 am (Uncategorized) (, )

TGIF!!

As promised, this is a post all about the latest special exhibit at The Field Museum, the Cave paintings of Lascaux.  Lascaux is a place in southwestern France that holds some of the oldest, most well-known depictions of Upper Paleolithic art.  These paintings are somewhere around 17,300 years old and most of the paintings are of animals that we know lived around the cave at the time they were painted, although in some cases there are no fossils  that have ever been found anywhere near where the animals were painted.  We don’t know exactly who painted these or why, though there are some theories (religious or spiritual ceremonies, accounts of hunting seasons, trance-dancing, etc.)  The cave lay hidden for thousands of years until a giant storm created a sinkhole that led to its chambers.  A group of teenage French boys were walking around and stumbled across it, quickly realizing the value of their find.  Two of them actually camped out for months at the entrance to the cave to ensure only legitimate scientists and researchers could gain entrance, and then they were guides once the cave was opened to the public.

These paintings make many people envision some Neanderthal with a club standing in the cave in which he lived, painting away.  This isn’t exactly accurate – first of all, the people who painted these were Homo sapiens and secondly, they didn’t live in caves (fires sure would create a smoky environment).  The cave was likely instead used for special purposes and not someplace that anyone lived in all the time.  Also, this isn’t just  a small cave you can walk into and see the back of, it’s actually pretty huge and has many chambers that snake around underground.  There are different animals in the different various chambers but the Field Museum exhibit focuses on one area in particular – the Great Hall of the Bulls.

Yup, this is there.

I mentioned the cave being open to the public but it’s not a place people can tour any longer.  The damage created by humans quickly began to erode the paintings (along with the installation of an air conditioning system – duh) and less than 25 years after it was discovered, it was closed back down.  Only researchers with the highest of security clearances can go down there now, and even then it’s a quick visit during specific times of the year.  But since so many people were fascinated by this find, the French created Lascaux II, which is a replica of the original basically across the street.  If you know anyone who says they’ve been to Lascaux, this is likely where they went.

Now for the Field Exhibit – this was created by French councils and officials and is an even closer and more accurate representation of the original cave than Lascaux II is.  It was created using super crazy technology that I won’t pretend to understand but basically every bit of paint and even the cave bumps and lines have been exactly reproduced.  The exhibit has a huge gallery you walk through where you can see the display of the artwork and there are also representations of the humans at the time that look so real it’s freaky.  It’s also freaky to think that when these were painted, it was done by oil lamps and sometimes the entire piece of work was never entirely seen by the artist because the space in the cave was so small.  The exhibit also has some cool technology that shows what sort of damaging gases your body puts out in the air (to mimic what happened to the original cave), as well as human remains from someone who lived in the time period the paintings were done (courtesy of our own museum).  There are also stone tools on display, diagrams and interactives that show how the paintings were done, theories of the themes and elements in the artwork and a lot more.  In case you haven’t picked up on it by now, I thought it was pretty cool.

As I said, this is the closest representation to the actual cave that exists and The Field Museum is the very first place it’s on display.  It also highlights artwork that’s never previously been made available to the public, so it’s an awesome thing to have in our museum for a while.  It’ll be with us until sometime in September so be sure to check it out if you can!

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