December 30, 2011

Christmas Memories

So glad Cameron loves Christmas as much as
I do!
Recently, I have noticed something, something a little exciting: this Christmas, as I sat beside the family Christmas tree (kudos to my mom, it was beautiful!), I realized the little things really bring me lots of joy, perhaps more than I thought. A good book (not surprising) can keep me entertained for hours, but put me in a kitchen with all the right ingredients, and I could probably spend the whole day just putting a dash of this, and a tad bit of that into a glorious-smelling concoction. You can imagine my excitement, then, when I opened a brand new panini maker (for the record, I could live off paninis if it was socially acceptable...). It's safe to say I had visions of sun dried tomatoes and fresh mozzarella dancing in my head. Yummmm!

Then came the biggest moment of the season...drumroll?

I GOT A KITCHEN AID MIXER! Yes, the stand-up kind that makes me think of adorable little 1950s housewives. and it's RED, my absolute favorite color in the whole wide world. I am beyond excited to use it and have all kinds of plans for home-made breads and pizza dough, not to mention all the cookies and muffins.

However, what I have been unequivocally blessed with this season is a group of incredible people who constantly surround me with love and support. My family and friends mean the world to me, and I could not have been happier to spend the holidays with them. My grandmother has always loved Christmas, and I can remember her asking in June for our lists ever since I was a kid. Seeing her kid-like joy on Christmas is a memory I will always treasure, and watching my  expanding extended family laugh and talk was so fulfilling to me.

Perhaps the most meaninful gift I received this year was a box from my grandmother filled with old family photos. Everything from photos of me as a baby, my dad growing up, and my family as we grew together was included, and I must say, the note she included made me tear up.

Here's to a wonderful year, to health, to friends, and to family. May your New Year be filled with joy and the happiest of memories.

December 20, 2011

...Remember Me?

I cannot believe how long it's been since I last blogged. It's horrible.

This is me trying to keep track of my life.
In the last month, I have been getting accustomed to my new job, I have officially moved, spent a week (yes, WEEK!) without internet, washed more dishes/pots/pans/appliances in my new place than I care to count, and fallen asleep pathetically early during the week, only to go back to my parents' house every weekend to pack up all my stuff, attend Christmas parties, and continue on my path to the proverbial Loony Bin.


I'm exhausted.

The holidays have completely suprise-attacked me. I am no where near as decked out in Christmas decorations at my new digs as I'd like to be, and I feel like I do not, and will never, have enough time to decorate before, you guessed it, I make the trek back home for Christmas.

It is for this reason that I have decided I need an unpaid personal assistant intern. He or she would need to feed my coffee addiction while keeping me headed in the correct direction, keep my schedule straight, and go grocery shopping for me (because honestly, it is not fun to live on a college diet of pizza and Ramen noodles anymore. It was fine before I had my dishes unpacked, but this is getting unreasonable).

And so help me if I have to make one more trip to Target to get a random assortment of things I can't seem to remember to write on my ever-growing list. I mean, come on, why do I keep forgetting to buy trash bags?! Wal-Mart bags are only going to work for so long until I get irritated with going to the dumpster every other day because the bag is full.


As I look at the clock, I am realizing that I am in my 20s and thinking "gee, it's getting kind of late"...and it's 8:00. Must remember to negotiate a mandatory nap time meeting at work. Maybe after HR just laughed when I proposed my personal intern idea, they would go for this one. I'd consider it a Christmas miracle.

Anyone else feel blindsided by the calendar this year??

November 30, 2011

Well Hello, Snow!

I am a royal dummy. I was at my parent's house for the Thanksgiving weekend, which was so much fun. However, when I left to return home and to work, I stupidly forgot my coat there.

Not to worry, I thought. The forecast said high forties...I can handle that. Come on, I'm from Michigan, when it gets into the 60s, I'm ready to break out the bathing suit for a little tan!

Guess what? It snowed, and I mean snowed. When I got to work yesterday, I was cursing my lack of a coat, but quickly clicking my heels against the pavement to get into the front doors. When I left, I very slowly tiptoed my way across that same pavement (or should I say ice?!) in a state of constant instability. I'm so grateful that my boss called my office to tell me I could leave early to beat the winter storms that were headed our way, because I have an hour long commute...and I had no idea what was going on outside (I have a beautiful window above my desk-which I can't see out of because it's a sort of opaque stained glass).

All the way home, I fought the slipping, sliding, and fishtailing, but I made it. It was plenty dark by the time dinner was finished cooking, and I suppose I didn't pay much attention to what was going on outside after that. When I woke up at 5:30 this morning to get ready to leave, everything was covered, tree limbs in the yard were down, and the road and driveway were impossible to find. Uh oh.

Again, I got lucky when I opened my email and saw a new message from my boss which said I could work from home today to avoid the road conditions. I gladly accepted and have been ticking away at my to-do list since this morning.

Whew. Lunch break over. Enjoy the snow!!

November 27, 2011

Oh, Black Friday

I am the stereotypical blood-shot-eyed, half asleep, bargain-hunting shopper on Black Friday. I have found some great deals over the years that keep me setting my alarm for the wee morning hours and using coffee as my lifeline throughout the morning full of shopping.

But the madness has to stop.

I refused to go out shopping on Thanksgiving, when many retailers opened their doors. You see, I feel bad enough that the employees of those places have to be ready to deal with the masses at 4 in the morning, but really, why do we need to take them away from their families on a holiday? Come on. In my opinion, if the pampered big-wigs sitting in their plush offices want to make the "lowly commoners" stay up all night, literally risking their lives by unlocking the store doors, and deal with the atrocious attitudes of the Black Friday shoppers, maybe they should come down off their velvet-covered, gold plated memory foam pedestals and join their employees. I can almost guarantee that would cut down on the Thanksgiving day openings.

And let's talk about the person who pulled a knife on another shopper over a towel. A towel. Honestly, who are we, heathens? Towels go on sale all the time. If you're really that desperate for that perfect shade to match your shower curtain, buy a different color at the sale price and go back for an even exchange when they have your color back in stock. What about the pepper spray over video game consoles? Congratulations, you not only made yourself look like a greedy, crazed person, but you have also landed yourself in jail...over a towel or an Xbox.

It's time for some prospective, people. When did getting a deal trump safety? Do you really need that new T.V. or should you think about buying some medicine for your sniffly-nosed child? Is it necessary to have those new video game consoles, or should you buy school supplies?

I understand that the economy is rough. I understand that many people feel like if they didn't buy something on Black Friday, they wouldn't be able to afford it. I suppose what I'm really wanting to say is that if you are really strapped for cash, take a good, hard look at what you actually need versus what you want. What will help you survive and what would be utterly useless in an emergency? Think about it. Enough is enough. It's the holidays, people. Help your fellow man, don't stab him. Do a little good for your community, don't pepper spray them. Prepare a special dish for Christmas dinner, turn off that brand-new LED TV, and talk to your loved ones like you actually care about them.

From the looks of it, though, that's the crazy idea.

Sad, isn't it?

November 21, 2011

Moving Up In The World

Well, gone are the days of endless wonder as to what I want to do with my life...for now. Today, I completed my first day at work on my real, grown-up job, and I loved it. There was so much to take in and lots to be done, but I really think this will turn out to be a great fit for me.

So what is it that I do, exactly? Great question. My title is Volunteer Coordinator, and my job description is essentially to be determined...intimidating, right? This is a brand new position, and all I (and my boss!) really know is that I need to find, recruit, and maintain volunteers for some awesome programs in four counties, and perhaps an additional three. I'll be talking, driving, calling, emailing, and organizing like mad. I'll be writing my own job description as I shape and mold the position into something vital to the organization. Breathe. I must remember to breathe.

At this point, easier said than done.

The good news is that I have volunteered since I can remember. I love it. Volunteering could be a career path for me if it weren't for the fact that I actually need to, you know, survive. I've been that volunteer wiping down nasty food-covered lunch tables and I've been the volunteer passing out prizes or meeting some awesome people. I've volunteered with kids, cancer patients, seniors, kids with disabilities, people with mental illnesses, and poverty-stricken people of all kinds of backgrounds. You name it, I've probably volunteered with it--or know someone who has. Here's to hoping all of that gives me some sort of special insight as to what makes volunteers tick, what tugs at their heartstrings, and what it is that they love.

Oh yeah, and maybe that psychology degree will come in handy. Let me take a  moment to point out how excited I am to actually be able to use my degrees to help people. It always makes me sad when people can't use the degrees they worked so hard and paid so much to get. Boo.

So fingers crossed that I can knock this job out of the park and learn a lot along the way...preferably not the hard way, but life is funny about that sometimes, huh?

November 16, 2011

Movie Review: Immortals

Last night, I saw Immortals, and it was GREAT. Usually, I'm not a huge fan of 300-like movies, don't get me wrong, I'll watch them, but given the choice, I'd most likely pass.

Over the years, I've had my fair share of Greek mythology lessons in school, but unfortunately I don't remember quite enough to attest to the accuracy of this story (sorry, sophomore year English...), but it was certainly entertaining. The gods were impressively dressed in shimmery gold ensembles which highlighted their "good guy" roles. The Titans, the "bad guys," were dark, dirty figures, appropriately hinting to their threatening presence.

The cinematography was incredible, the way the scenes seamlessly transitioned from one to the next was nearly flawless, and definitely creative. Unique camera angles lent the movie an added plus, as they allowed for a different perspective of the story in a way that made me want to look over my shoulder for the enemy lurking in the corner.

I will say there was a lot of blood, so this is definitely not a movie for kids. I'll admit I closed my eyes a few times so I wouldn't have to see the carnage on the screen, so keep that in mind.

On a more superficial note, the 2 hour no-shirt fest provided quite a bit of eye candy for the ladies, though that by no means made the movie as great as it is. I'm more of a story person than a "look, that's my favorite shirtless actor, who cares if he can barely spit out his lines?!" person. But seriously, look at the picture to the right. Yowza.

That aside, I definitely recommend you check out this movie, and if you really, really can't make it to theaters, definitely keep it on your rent-when-it-comes-out list!

November 14, 2011

Long Time, No Blog!

Wow, last week completely got away from me. Things are busy, busy, busy around here as I try to get organized and packed, in addition to getting in extra family and friend time. Whew!

Here's a little more good news: I found an apartment I like, finally, so I can officially discontinue my worries about being a nomad in the dead of winter. At least I know I'll be warm at night!

My apartment searching was certainly an adventure. I had my heart set on one complex that I had found online which was not far from where I will be working. A word to the wise: don't get your heart set on a complex you find online. When I arrived to walk through a model apartment, I was surprised at just how run down the place actually looked. While my mom and I waked through the apartment, we couldn't help but be completely grossed out by the smokey smell (I absolutely cannot stand the smell of smoke) and the full, stinking trash bags that were laying in the hallway. Seriously? Who could live with smelly garbage like that? Yuck. Aside from that was the fact that the apartment definitely did not have all the features the website listed. Boo.

The next one was even dirtier. Not cool. The young man that was showing me the model apartment had his sales pitch down, though, I will say that. Unfortunately for him, I have a psychology degree, so I learned all those tricks, meaning I was not about to fall for them. For example, the "so do you think you can picture yourself cooking a meal in this kitchen?" is a great way to get people thinking that yes, they could and why would they not sign a lease there?! Except that I definitely could not see myself cooking in that kitchen. There was barely enough room to turn around, and counter space was virtually nonexistent, which is very bad for someone like me who prepares food using every spare dish and inch of counter space. Wah, wah, wahhh.

Finally, I went to the third apartment complex. My boyfriend had called after we saw the second one, and I was quite concerned when I talked to him that I would never find the right place, because even the ones we drove by were less than ideal. I had a little mini panic on the phone, thinking I was doomed to live the life of a homeless nomad who wandered from place to place searching for a more permanent residence.

Thankfully, everything worked out and I think I'm going to love this new I just have the overwhelming task of picking furniture to fill it, wish me luck!

November 6, 2011

Grown-Ups Have Boring Christmas Lists...

Have you ever heard the song "Grown Up Christmas List," which is a lovely, inspiring song that a number of different artists have recorded? It's one of my favorites, really.

The song is about a hope for a better world, one without suffering, one with compassion, and one with help for those who need it. It's a song that any peace-loving person would probably play on repeat as the holidays approach. What a nice thought, that especially during the holiday season, the world could enjoy peace, joy, and love. Sigh.

This year, my Christmas list is a little different, but still a grown-up one. Life is changing these days, and fast. I find myself thinking of cleaning products that need buying and cupboards that need cleaning. As I prepare for my big move before I start my new job, I keep thinking of things I need to acquire in order to have any sense of organization in my new place.

So what's on my grown-up Christmas list, which my grandmother nearly begged me to give her yesterday when I went for a visit?

A vacuum. A bright, shiny, quality vacuum. It's actually topping the list. I have been defeated by the Responsibility Gods, who have won the growing-up battle. Other items include a nice spice rack, a mirror/shelf/hook thingy so that I can hang up my coat and keys all in one convenient place next to my door. New sheets would be great, too.

Now that I'm looking at it, my Christmas list is a pretty boring one this year-it's all about practicality. Is this a trend in this economy, or is it just me? What's on your list this year?

November 3, 2011

Bittersweet Beginnings

I have some big news. Well, the word has been spreading quite quickly, so I suppose by now it is entirely possible that everyone knows, but what the heck, I'll announce it here anyway:

I got a job!

A real one. A full-time one. A big kid job.

Great news, right? Of course! It will be so nice to finally be able to stop worrying about finding something permanent, and I'm so very excited to start this one. At the same time, though, it's all very bittersweet. See, everything I'm used to is here. Not two hours away where I'll be moving. The kids I work with every day, though they frustrate and exhaust me to no end sometimes, have endeared themselves to me so quickly, I am already mentally preparing to say my goodbyes. I have no doubt there will be tears, and most definitely a lump in my throat that refuses to allow me to speak in a normal tone of voice. I'm absolutely no good at goodbyes.

Not only that, but my family is all right here. Well, most of my family. How will I ever be able to move away from my little sister? It's definitely not going to be easy. Don't even get me started on leaving my parents, because all through college, I still teared up when I went back to school after a weekend at home. Yeah, it's a little pathetic, but I'll take that over wishing I was someone else's kid any day. Then there are my friends, and of course, Cameron. That will be awful.

At the same time, though, I have a sense of finally coming into my own. No more babysitting (unless I so choose), no more part time job, no more wishing I could just get a bite on my resume. No, now I will be a professional doing professional things, like buying office supplies and chatting with my coworkers about the latest episode of Dancing With The Stars (not that I watch it, but Yahoo! really doesn't let me avoid knowing who got kicked off and why).

So what will I be doing? I will be recruiting and coordinating volunteers for a non-profit. In all reality, it is the perfect job for me. There will be volunteers who work with kids (obviously something I love), some who provide meals for families/seniors in need (awesome), and oh so much more. Everything I've ever done is volunteer, really, so I'm feeling pretty confident that I can knock the proverbial socks off my boss when I start working for her.

I don't start there for a couple of weeks so that I have time to find a place to live (I need to get on that...) and get settled, but keep your fingers crossed and say a little prayer for me! Oh, and you can bet I'll write all about it after my first day!

October 29, 2011

Swanky Living

Baby feet. They're just so darn cute, aren't they? Add to that their little coos and goofy facial expressions and absolutely viral laughter, and it's impossible to deny they're absolutely adorable.

Here's the thing about babies, though: the spit up, and they have nasty, awful dirty diapers, they throw their pureed peas all over the kitchen and then smear it through their hair until it's crusty...all the time. It's just so easy to forgive them because of all the aforementioned cute things.

A couple years ago, I did a research project for my child psychology class in which I investigated the cost of having and raising a baby for the first year of its life--the final number alone should be a great reason for teens to not even want to sit next to someone of the opposite sex, let me tell you. Looking back, some of the items I included were a little unnecessary, but not nearly as silly as what I found in the collection of pictures of celebrity baby nurseries.

Check out what Jennifer Lopez did for her twins
The sweeping drapes, fuzzy fabrics, and irresistibly cute crib bumpers, bows, and blankets are all very nice for the adult eye, but in reality, they're huge suffocation hazards, and those bows? Choking hazards. Congratulations, you've built a very adorable, very deadly nursery.

Look at the photo to the left. Are you kidding me? Can you imagine getting the less-than adorable pureed pea spit-up out of those fabrics? No. That chandelier is beautiful, but it will be less so when Baby throws a ball and it comes crashing down.

Granted, I'm sure JLo has at least one or two maids to clean up that mess, but still. I know I don't have a baby, but Baby wouldn't know the difference between a possibly less cuddly room that is entirely practical. A mattress in the crib minus the bumper, pillows, and stuffed animals is practical and safe, albeit less "awww!" worthy from Grandma.

I'm urging you, please keep this in mind when you have kids. Remember, a happy, breathing baby is always better than a beautiful satin bow around the crib rails. 

October 25, 2011

Halloween: Then and Now

Halloween is sneaking up unbelievably fast. I am completely at a loss as to what to be this year, especially since I've been told the line has been drawn at being Kate Middleton. It's cruel, really.

On Sunday, my boyfriend and I took a trip to the local orchard, where we participated in a great wine tasting experience and walked around in the beautiful fall weather. The wine was delicious, and we ended up buying four bottles, including two bottles of our favorite from the afternoon: Sparkling Sweet Peach, which had a fantastic fruity flavor and would be perfect for a brunch or luncheon, or with a great milk chocolate. Yumm!

The weather cooperated with our little outing, and we enjoyed the beautiful sunshine set against the changing leaves, it was the perfect afternoon. We got a good laugh when we decided to just wander around the orchard and walk in between the rows of trees: the entrance was blocked off with a collection of fun activities for kids. There were inflatables, games, even face painting stations, and the smell as we got closer hinted at a small petting zoo. Thwarted, we turned around and headed toward the makeshift "pumpkin patch" which was closer to the front of the orchard rather than the pick-your-own pumpkin section, and had a good laugh at the kids who were completely overwhelmed as they tried to pick up pumpkins almost as big as themselves.

Enter my story about a pumpkin carving experience. When I was a kid, I loved carving pumpkins. My favorite part was cleaning out the inside and squishing the insides of the pumpkin through my fingers. I loved it so much that I would having the pumpkin completely emptied and then put all the insides back in only to take them out again. Yeah, I was weird. A few years ago, a couple friends from college and I carved pumpkins. We went to a very conservative school in Michigan, and most of the other girls in the dorm made happy-looking pumpkins. Come on, it's Halloween. We decided to challenge that with our masterpieces, Chuck and Ralph, aptly named for their unfortunate action's slang. Almost better than the pumpkins themselves were the reactions we got from everyone else in the dorm.

Have you done anything creative with your pumpkins? Any great Halloween plans this year?

October 21, 2011

A True Love Story

In a time when the word "divorce" is all too common, stories of couples who were so clearly meant to be together are even more heart-warming.

Today's love story comes in the form of Norma and Gordon Yeager. The two were married 72 years before passing away in the hospital together--holding hands until the very end. Their children say Gordon stopped breathing first, but his heart continued beating, almost as if his heart was beating through hers in those final moments as they continued holding hands.

I'm no expert, but I believe that shows the power of love.

Like any other couple, the children said, the two had the occasional argument, but knew the life they were building together was bigger than all of that.

I'm not always sure if I believe there is an element of fate to relationships that feel "meant-to-be," but it's stories like this that make me feel there is simply no explanation beyond something far greater than all of us which guides us all. The thought that these two people loved until the very end is touching, but more amazing to me, is thinking about all the things that had to fall into place for them to meet, to fall in love, to marry.

What if one had been born just five miles from where they were? Would they ever have met? If they had, would their experiences in a slightly different life have brought them together, or prevented them from even becoming friends? What are the odds that something like this could happen completely based on coincidence? I'd say pretty tiny.

 It's like something Nicholas Sparks would fact, that seems quite similar indeed to the movie The Notebook, which is arguably one of my favorites (for the record, the book is slightly different, definitely worth a read!).

As I'm watching the rain fall on this dreary fall day, this is a nice glimmer of inspiration. I can only hope that one day, when I'm too old to know who I am, I will have found peace in lasting love.

If you'd like to view the full story, please check out this video.

October 20, 2011

Ah, To Think...

This is not me, of course, but doesn't this look like the comfiest
sleeping arrangement in the world?
I think the most in the morning when I first wake up, and at night before I fall asleep. Doing the latter of the two generally means my thoughts are never completed and I end up with some ridiculous dream because, really, I fall asleep quite quickly when my head hits the pillow.

Often, this means a whirlwind of thoughts in very strange I thought I'd share exactly what is running through my mind at this very second:

"I really, desperately need a haircut, and I'm not sure how I was planning on making it all the way to next week. In fact, I'm half tempted to shave my head bald and be done with it. This brushing and blow-drying my hair everyday takes a lot of time and generally ends with a shrug and a hope it stays in place. Place. Crap. I need to look up directions to that interview on Monday. Which reminds me, I really, really can't risk having the same experience as the one in Detroit, so I should probably scope it out the day before, except it's two hours away. Hmm, maybe I could find a friend who lives there and crash with them the night before. Yes. Good. I have a plan for tomorrow... and HOLY S*#$! WHAT IS THAT?? TELL ME THAT IS NOT A MINI SPIDER ON THE WALL. No way I can sleep here now. No, thank you. I'm relocating. In fact, maybe I just need to move into a new house. A spider-free house...Yes. That will be my new plan for tomorrow, find a new home."


It's exhausting.

Here's to hoping my dreams aren't filled with spiders, because I can NOT deal with that. I would probably wake up in tears. Very big, very crocodile-like tears.

And now, to sleep, or perchance, to dream.

Just not of my 8-legged foes.

October 17, 2011

Giving Life Meaning

Today's post is a short one. A friend of mine, Kevin, sent me a quote from a book and I think it should speak for itself. 

Last year, I had the honor of accompanying Kevin to a conference benefiting children suffering from Pallister-Killian Syndrome (PKS), which is a debilitating chromosomal abnormality. For more information on the disease, please take a look at the PKS Kids website (bonus: PKS Awareness Day is December 4!) 

At the conference, Kevin gave a touching talk in which he implored the audience to think about their legacy. How would they be remembered after their time here on earth is done? Would they be remembered beyond their children? It certainly got me thinking. Kevin described his own desire to do something that would leave a memorable mark on our world, which I'm sure contributes to the amazing work he has done through Be A Number

What are you doing to leave a positive legacy? How do you hope to be remembered? Think about this:
"Do not let your life be like a shooting star, which lights up the sky for only a brief moment. Let your life be like the sun, which always burns brightly in the heavens, bringing light and warmth to all those on earth. Let your light shine." 
-Matthew Kelly, Author, The Rhythm of Life

October 16, 2011

Another Royal Wedding?!

At this point, there is no question that I absolutely love weddings, but a Royal Wedding can send me into a verbal frenzy in seconds.

And then there's Bhutan, a tiny country for which I have a lot of admiration.

Combine the two, and it's a very exciting day. I'm happy to report that the beloved king of Bhutan enjoyed his own royal wedding this week, and he, too, married a "commoner." Could this be a new royal trend? It certainly appears to be!

The bride is a pilot's daughter and has been treated to a tour of the country recently, as she prepares for her new role as Queen. She will be the King's only bride, he says, which is in stark contrast from his father, who has four wives. King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, is the son of the famed king who, in the 1970s, revolutionized the way leaders worldwide think about their countries' success by measuring gross national happiness, rather than gross domestic product.

Granted, this wedding was a far cry from the huge buildup and incredible excitement of the Royal Wedding of the century this past April, which saw viewers from around the world. This wedding only included members of the royal family and the country's onlookers.

Ahhh, weddings. They're such joyous occasions, and I love, love, love the benefits of modern media which make it so easy to follow the weddings of splendor that I'm quite sure I will never have as I don't have millions of dollars at my disposal. However, if it is possible to achieve some level of happiness through another's, I believe these two weddings have provided just that- a reason to celebrate a beautiful union, with full support of those around them--and around the world.

October 13, 2011

I'm A Soldier!

For a couple weeks now, I have been working at the Salvation Army with a special group of kids who need some extra direction in life. Whether that means helping with homework, tutoring, or being a consistent person in their lives, it's a big job...and I love every moment of it. Every day is overwhelming in its own way, and I come home exhausted frequently, but I am so happy working there.

Of course, it's not a career for me, but while I'm looking for something more permanent, I can't think of anything more well-suited for me. I've come to find out that the things I am best at doing are working with kids and working for a better world through philanthropy. What I love so much about this job is that I am doing both! It's the kind of thing I would do on a volunteer basis--and what's better than getting paid to do something you would do on a weekend or in your free time? Not much, I'd say.

After graduating earlier this year, I found that I wasn't, and still am not, sure "what I want to be when I grow up." Needless to say, that fact made it a little hard to figure out where to send job applications and completely lacked direction in my ever-changing life plan. I'm very grateful to the "very formidable Marcia," a local journalist's wife, and friend of my mother's who mentioned the job opening at the Salvation Army. I am quite sure I would not have thought of working there for quite some time, if at all.

Yesterday, I put in a few extra hours to help people fill out applications to be a holiday Bell Ringer, you know, the people who stand outside your local mall with donation cans. It was nearly heartbreaking to see people need help to read the application or to have people ask me to write for them since they hadn't really mastered reading and writing. However, as hard as it was to fathom a life of illiteracy, I couldn't help but admire them. Here were people who had lost jobs, some who had done time in prison for various reasons, and others who wanted to be able to buy their kids a Christmas present. They weren't too proud to stand in the frigid Michigan weather during the winter to make that happen. They weren't too proud to ask for help. They were determined. They weren't laying down and wallowing in self-pity. No, instead, they were willing to work, wherever, whenever, to start over, to have a happy Christmas, to make the next house payment.

It's one of my favorite things about America-the hard-workers who refuse to stop in the face of a bleak economic future. They give a particular zest to life that I hope I can also exude. While all the protests happen across the country, while many people are expressing their discontent by marching Wall Street or getting arrested, I have a great respect for those who take that same time to work, or at least try to. Rather than spending time asking for wages, they're actually earning them or putting in applications so they may be able to. To me, that's America. I'm here to work for my lifestyle, who's with me?

That said, I believe there are people who need a boost, and that's why I'm so passionate about philanthropy. I am willing to give some of what I have so they can have a chance at achieving their own dreams. So, I couldn't be happier to announce that I am a Salvation Army Soldier, and I hope as the holiday season approaches, we can all find it in our hearts to do something good for others while we work for our own good.

October 10, 2011

Excuse Me, ESPN, May I Borrow My Boyfriend?

It's an interesting phenomena, watching a man watch sports. I've noticed some things about them, these sports-enthused men, and these things seem consistent across many sporting events, much in the same way they occur during video gaming experiences.

Observing someone completely engrossed in what I call "Manworld" is fascinating, really. Here's what I noticed:
  • Dialated pupils
  • A distant, yet impressively focused stare
  • Generally, the man is watching, awestruck, open-mouthed (the exception here, of course, is when they are actually yelling at the television, arms outstretched in either outrage or excitement, the reaction seems eerily similar minus the choice vocabulary and facial contortions)
  • Snacks are within 3-4 feet, allowing just enough room to jump off the couch as soon as a big play happens.
  • During a "big play" or something that has the potential to become one, the man will lean forward, as if moving the extra 6 inches closer to the TV will affect the outcome.
  • When his team wins, a man will proudly announce "we won!" whereas after a loss, he may say "yeah, they lost."
  • Attempting to ask a question or make light conversation is generally fruitless as responses will either be something like, "uh, yeah, that's-whoa! Did you see that?!- sorry, what were you saying?" or there simply won't be a response until the commercial break. 
  • Fantasy sports teams are as important as the very breath they breathe, and also account for a great deal of either joy or stress, depending on a particular player's performance in each game.  This is generally true for the younger crowd or the betting-prone.
Now, these things could be endearing if it weren't for the overlapping seasons which mean there could literally be a sport to watch every day of the week. The way I see it, the majority of September and October are pretty much lost. On the other hand, I'm sure bar and grill establishments absolutely love these two months. Add in the extra car and beer commercials, and it's Manheaven.

I also realize I am now at risk of a particularly sarcastic and/or poignant comment from my dear boyfriend. So, I'll come right out and say it: yes, I do also enjoy sports, and yes, I have been very passionate about my Fantasy Football team (which, by the way, is still doing quite well, thank you), and OK, fine, I am completely guilty of the stereotypical "woman questions or comments" during a game that could probably be seen as slightly annoying. However, I say that if ESPN, ABC, and NBC are going to insist on dating my boyfriend with me, then I should at least get to ask questions for clarification during a game or be allowed to make light conversation if I also made the snacks mentioned above.


I guess what I'm really asking is, Sports of the World, may I borrow my boyfriend for a moment? I have a very important comment to make about my new nail polish.

October 6, 2011

iThank You, Steve

Yesterday, the world lost a great innovator, businessman, and leader. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, passed away after several years of health problems (it's always the best people that seem to get sick, isn't it?). There is no shortage of news reports on this topic today, so my post will be brief.

Now, I've never owned a Mac, but I generally wish I did at least a few days a week. I have enjoyed close to a year with my iPhone, and after years of owning the world's lamest phones, I'm not sure how I survived without it. It has gotten me out of many situations in which I was hopelessly lost, helped me prove a point by looking up a quick fact online, keeps me constantly informed of the latest news headlines, ESPN updates, and even helps me waste time when I'm sitting in the waiting room at the dentist's office....all while looking sleek and cool. That's a feat certainly no human can achieve.

During his life as a business man, Steve helped build what seems to be a recession-proof company that consistently produces quality products and incredible customer service. He was a visionary, and a great one at that.

A while ago, I watched the commencement speech he gave at Stanford University in 2005, and today, I watched it again.  His words, albeit a little haunting today, were light, yet thought-provoking, and just so happen to fit perfectly with my new-found quest for attaining true happiness. Take a look below:

"Remembering you are going to die, is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose." -Steve Jobs

Follow what you love, dream big, and never, never stop believing you can achieve your wildest dreams. After all, in the end, what do you have to lose? I won't settle, will you? 

October 4, 2011

Congratulations Are In Order!

The bride's sister took this great photo
This weekend, I had the honor of attending the wedding of a beautiful couple. The blushing bride was my "Big Sis" in Pi Phi, and was an amazing friend and mentor to me as I grew through times good and bad. Needless to say, I admire her in many ways.The dashing groom proudly sported his Marine colors, and makes a perfect match for Julia.

Julia is one of the most beautiful souls I've ever met. She constantly amazes me with her grace, patience and commitment to her faith. These qualities, of course, are paradoxical with the intensity with which she supports the Bears, and she can certainly make her displeasure known when they are losing.

I haven't known Matt long, and I can't say that I have had a chance to really get to know him, but Julia has told me enough about him that I feel quite comfortable saying that he is perfect for her. Just in the way they interact, anyone can see how much joy he brings her (and she, him), and how comfortable they are together. They share laughter easily, but naturally just click on the more serious matters in life.

Their ceremony was solemn, personal, and so heartfelt. Similarly, the reception was romantic, yet fun. I, of course, had no shortage of tears during both.

During the reception, arguably one of the most memorable moments occurred during the traditional father-daughter dance. I was seated with a group of other former Pi Phis who had made the trip. As the music began and the bride joined her father on the dance floor, our entire group nearly instantaneously burst into tears. We all began to look around the table and noticed that each of us was crying (minus one Pi Phi's husband, who had the misfortune of being the only male seated at our table), and giggled a little.

Then came the moment that defined the reception for us. As the father-daughter dance ended, the bride took the microphone and asked her dad to return to the dance floor. She explained that she had one more song to dance with him since she had long regretted not dancing with him during a high school dance (I missed the explanation here, but I'm guessing he volunteered to chaperon the dance). The song "Stealing Cinderella" by Chuck Wicks came through the speakers, only this time, our table was rendered near inconsolable. We cried, wiped our tears, and cried again, but noticed again that everyone at our table was doing so. This inspired a fit of laughter on all accounts, but the laughter didn't stop the tears.  In case anyone at the reception had been wondering where the "sorority table" was, there was no longer any question. The server looked bewildered with a side of concerned when he spoke to the next table and pointed to us, saying, "that whole table is laughing and crying...I don't know what to do!"

I have heard of people laughing and crying at the same time, but I never actually thought it could happen. I'm sure my brain was incredibly confused as to the proper response to such emotional contradiction. Leave it to Julia to show me anything is possible!

So here's to a beautiful wedding, an inspiring couple, and a very happy, blessed married life together. Congratulations, Matt and Julia!

October 1, 2011

Finding The Meaning Of Happiness

I caught up with a friend of mine, Kevin, yesterday, and we began talking about my last post and the idea of what makes people happy.

Here are Kevin & I just before leaving for
South Dakota a few years ago
Generally, our conversations either begin or end with a discussion about life and what makes people tick. Kevin is one of those people who is constantly dreaming big. Whether that be dreaming of a better world for everyone in it or of a new fantastic plan he has come up with for himself. Honestly, I wish I could dream like that, but I often find my creativity comes up a little short of thinking of a new business idea every day.

When talking with him yesterday, we got on the topic of good ol' Bhutan and how the idea of finding happiness, or defining it in some way, could be a blog in and of itself.

So here's what I'm wondering: what brings you happiness? I mean pure, unadulterated happiness. The kind of joy that comes from seeing your mom's open arms at long last after a week at summer camp as a kid, or perhaps being able to sit down with the one you love at the end of a long day and share a smile.

Here's where I'll interject with a small brag about my awesome boyfriend. I'm perfectly happy curling up on the couch with a movie and a bowl of popcorn, and I'm so glad he enjoys the same. I love the comfort that comes with being able to get dressed up and go out, but also being able to show up on his doorstep in sweats and disheveled hair after a long day.  It's good to know I can just be

So there's one example about what makes me happy, what about you?

Seriously, I'm really interested to see what you have to say, so please share!

September 29, 2011

Maybe I'll Move to Bhutan

...Okay, not really, but it's an interesting thought.

Bhutan is dwarfed by China and India, to be sure
Remember back in my first post when I mentioned I sometimes fill my head with thoughts of the happiness situation in Bhutan? That wasn't a joke, I really do think about the relatively small country in the heart of the eastern world.

A while ago, I was watching a video on, my favorite source for fascinating videos and new ideas, and I couldn't help but smile when Chip Conley began speaking about the little plot of land full of Buddhist monks and beautiful views.

Back in the 1970s, a teenage king, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, came up with a rather revolutionary idea for measuring a country's success: why not measure success in gross national happiness as opposed to gross domestic product or some such other material measurement. This is no easy task, of course, because how does one go about measuring happiness? It's such a subjective topic, so defining happiness and what creates it can be difficult.

Think about it, though, what does really matter in life? Is it the fancy new car, or is it perhaps the cute little girl sitting in the back seat singing along to her favorite Sesame Street song? Is it the mansion on a hill, or is it the beautiful family you've built who lives in it?

Me? I'd take the family and love over a new car and huge home any day. After all, what good are those things when you have no one to share them with?

This is a photo of a Buddhist monastery in Bhutan...
That's a view I could handle every morning!
In the video, Conley mentions an author who suggests happiness is the difference between having what you want, and wanting what you have. I love this. Try asking a child where they see themselves when they're grown up. What do they typically say?  "I want to be an astronaut, and I will be married and have lots of kids." They don't usually say, "I will be a senior accountant making lots of money so I can buy myself an iPad and end up divorcing my husband (or wife), then engaging in a nasty custody battle over our kids who drop their expensive toys all over the house."

Ok, maybe I took that a little far, and I'm certainly not suggesting that all senior accountants feel that way or that everyone ends up in such a rut, but how often do you hear of that situation these days? 

It's certainly interesting that the GDP takes into account how many nuclear warheads a country has as well as air pollution and TV shows that glorify violence, but doesn't account for the integrity of our public officials, health of our children, or the strength of our marriages. Do you think that's a little off? I do.

So maybe I'll move to Bhutan, or at least dream about it. Here's to happiness, may we all end each day with a smile. 

September 27, 2011

Good News, Coffe Lovers!

It's no secret that one of my biggest weaknesses in life is coffee, so it's no surprise that I love finding studies that show the many benefits of caffiene.

Today's research comes from the Archives of Internal Medicine, and shows a correlation between drinking coffee and lower rates of depression among women.

Here's where the psychology enthusiast in me would like to make a quick interruption: please, please take research the media reports with a grain of salt. Journalists tend not to accurately report the implications of results because of the way they are written. There is a very big difference between cause-and-effect relationships and correlational relationships. Cause-and-effect relationships are so very rare, but there are often strong links. End rant.

I'm sure you can imagine the internal happiness dance I did while reading the article by BBC News this morning. It appears that women who drank one cup of coffee a day showed a "15% decreased risk of developing depression."  Granted, other factors may be at work here, such as getting more sleep (caffiene is a stimulant, so consuming it may prevent quality sleep),  but it's an interesting result nonetheless.  It's hard to control for other variables here, such as amount of sleep, family crises, emergencies, economic concerns, etc., which could contribute to depression rates. However, I'll take this added reason to keep drinking my cup or two (sometimes three...) a day.

Combine that with other studies which have shown among coffee drinkers  lower suicide rates, lower incidence of high blood pressure, diabetes, and being overweight, and I'm ready to brew a pot (by the way, my favorite is hazelnut coffee...and yes, I go with Free Trade coffee. Paired with a bit of Divine dark chocolate, it's a delicious Free Trade party!)

Today is a day to rejoice, my dear fellow Coffee Lovers, now quit reading this and grab a good cup o' Joe!

September 25, 2011

My Island of Happiness

Sometimes people really bug me. I mean really, really bug me.

You see, I expect a certain amount of decency, respect, and courtesy from everyone. In return, I display the same when I encounter other people. If I'm having a bad day, I make a conscious effort not to snap at people, or treat them with anything but a smile,  no matter how much I'm stewing inside. Why? I believe that no matter what is irking me, it's really not their problem and I'm not going to force them into dealing with it by treating them poorly. Needless to say, when I see people engaging in rude, short, or temperamental behavior, I become irritated quickly.

Also, I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "there are no stupid questions." I am here to tell you that, yes, there are stupid questions. In fact, there are very stupid questions. Those bug me too. Such questions include, but are not limited to, questions which have been repeated several times, not for lack of understanding, but for lack of listening to the answer when it was originally offered. It not only suggests the disregard for courtesy as I previously mentioned, but it is really just not smart to blatantly display the fact that there was no courtesy by asking the question.

People who argue incessantly about things that have no right, wrong, or mutually agreed upon answer drive me crazy. Things like religion, politics, music choice, or really anything involving opinion will probably never be subjects with a general consensus of opinion by the human race, so please, for sanity's sake, stop arguing about it. Come to a compromise and drop it so that I don't have to hear about it. This means everyone will have to give a little, but in the end, agree to disagree or find the least objectionable option for all parties and let the rest of us have some peace and quiet.

I've been doing some thinking, and I've decided I'm going to run away. Far, far away. Specifically, I will be running away to a lovely tropical island that has not been placed on a map...all by myself. There will be no bridge to my island, and I will spend my days in peace, alllll by myself. Happy. So happy.

I will have no visitors. I'll come visit you. I can't have people knowing where to find me, after all. That defeats the purpose of my island, which primarily serves as an escape from the mindless babbling of the human race.

I will come off of my island only to refill supplies and possibly to work just long enough to save some money in order to purchase said supplies. Otherwise, I will be on my island indefinitely. And boy, will I be happy.

It's perfect.

September 22, 2011

Cleaning Casualties

A horrible, awful, terrifying thing has happened just now. You're lucky; you're the first to know.

I've just sustained my first injury from cleaning out my closet. I managed to chip a tooth.

How, one might ask, does someone manage to chip a tooth whilst cleaning out a closet? I remind you that I am incredibly, impressively accident prone. I constantly amaze myself at the odd injuries I bring upon myself, from a nasty concussion after running on a football field to a large gouge taken out of my leg during a "friendly" game of tag.

So here's the story. I had only just begun to clean this portion of my room when I decided a few things could fit on the top shelf. They happened to be posters from my college years that I intend on framing later (they're the classy, black and white photo types, so they'd work well in an entertainment room), but for now, they have been rolled up quite efficiently. I was fairly certain that I could maneuver the poster around a particularly large water bottle I received as a party favor from my senior prom in high school (I know, I really should get rid of that, huh?).

I had just begun to think I had secured the posters behind a few boxes (and the water bottle) when all of a sudden, CRASH! In a completely uncoordinated, bumbling moment, I knocked the water bottle from it's spot on the shelf and attempted (and failed miserably) to catch it using my elbows as my hands were still holding the posters in place. The bottle plunged down from the depths of my closet and found it's target: my two front teeth. I was left swearing (sorry, Mom!), gripping my mouth, and bleeding. Further investigation revealed it wasn't my lip that was bleeding as I had originally thought (though it was throbbing to the beat of my heart), it was, in fact, my gumline. 

A moment of panic ensued in which I had convinced myself my teeth were about to fall out, only a handful of years after my entirely embarrassing braces were removed. Thankfully, they did not fall out, though there is a small chip on one of my teeth near the gumline, which will probably go unfixed as it is apparently completely imperceptible to others (my sister didn't believe me, she thought I may have walked into a door...), but I will know, and oh how I will despair.

That's the last time I clean my closet. Or at least I'd like to think so.

September 20, 2011

Dancing Through Decades

Tara is on the far right.
This Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend the Grand Rapids Ballet Company's production of Company B, a WWII era-inspired ballet choreographed by Paul Taylor and featuring the music of The Andrews Sisters. My good friend Tara is a real, live ballerina, and she's an amazing one, at that. She's been dancing ever since I can remember, and she's the only one out of us that stuck with it all these years. I quit somewhere around age 5.

Erica, Tara, and I have been friends since
we were just little tykes.

I am by no means an expert in the art of ballet, but I thought the performance was fantastic. Granted, I've always been fascinated by WWII, and I have a thing for big band music, but I thoroughly enjoyed Company B and I think I would have even if I wasn't able to sing along with the music. The dancers were perfectly in sync and they made the twists and turns look effortless. Tara had a flirtatious solo for the song "Rum and Coca-Cola," in which she uses her feminine wiles to transfix the men far from home in Trinidad.  

The ballet was a far cry from our days of prancing around onstage with the Dancin' Fun program from the Flint Institute of Music when we were kids, but those of us who have been lucky enough to know Tara since those early days are so proud of how far she's come (she's even danced in China!). 

Congratulations, Tara, on a beautiful ballet!

Next on my list of things to see is the Nutcracker, my all-time favorite ballet and one that I try to see every year just before Christmas. We've got under 100 days to go, and I'm prepared to start celebrating Christmas now! Is anyone else a fan of ballet? What have you seen or what do you want to see??

September 16, 2011

A Little Inspiration

Easily one of my favorite icons is Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I find her ability to remain ever-humble in a world where millions looked up to her, to be nothing less than saintly. I have been reading a few quotes by Mother Teresa each day, and I found one recently that stuck out to me as an ideal way to live life:

"Joy is very infectious. We will never know just how much good a simple smile can do. Be faithful in little things. Smile at one another. We must live beautifully."

A few things struck me as I read this particular passage. Notice how much emphasis she has placed on finding happiness through the simple things. She is consistent with this idea right down to her sentence structure, using just a few words in each sentence, but in such a way that the meaning is clear: our actions, however small, have a ripple effect. Why spread anger when it is so easy to simply smile?

I am just as guilty as the next person of sometimes letting my frustrations get the best of me. Heaven knows I have snapped at people who certainly did not deserve it when I was under stress. I believe it is fair to say this is one thing that is easier said than done at times, but the importance of common courtesies, as well as a simple smile is overwhelming. In fact, it can get you pretty far in life.

The view from the hotel parking lot--the whole town had
recently been destroyed by a tornado
A quick example: In May, Cameron and I were headed to a good friend's wedding in Arizona, which is a bit more than a stone's throw from my beloved Michigan. After driving all night and day, we landed in a tiny town at the end of Kansas, quite exhausted and unkempt after about 19 long hours of driving. The couple ahead of us was quite rude upon discovering that no, this hotel did not have presidential suites, as they had just rebuilt after a tornado wiped out the entire town not long ago. The woman at the front desk of the only hotel for at least 70 miles gave us the price of a room, which was a bit more than we had wanted to spend for a few hours' sleep. I thanked her for her help and Cameron and I quickly discussed whether we should bend the budget a little. The woman heard our situation, and offered to give us a discounted rate. We of course gladly accepted and thanked her profusely for her help. We ended up loving the experience we had there, right down to the Hot Pockets we ate for dinner from the local gas station since the restaurants had not yet been rebuilt.

Life's little lessons often stick with people, and I think that on that day we learned that simply by being kind, we were able to enjoy a great night's sleep in a state-of-the-art and green-friendly hotel, for less than we would have otherwise. It's a simplistic example, yes, but at the same time, it fits.

Regardless, I am very much enjoying this collection of Mother Teresa's quotes, and it has certainly helped give me a new appreciation for the world around me, even just a friendly smile. It really is the simple things, isn't it?

September 14, 2011

Beyond My Years

Recently, I came across a letter hidden in the back of my desk. It was a letter to myself that I had written at the end of elementary school as one of my last assignments. I received the letter in high school when my 5th grade teacher passed away after a battle with cancer. I had been so surprised that she had kept the letters, but then, I wasn't surprised at all.

When we wrote the letters, she told us she would mail them to us when we were in high school, so that we wouldn't forget who we were as kids. I should have known that of all the people to follow through on their word, it would be her. My teacher was an incredible woman with the patience of a saint, and I am so grateful for the words she left with me, not least of all being the small note she had attached, reading, "Elizabeth-a quiet, thoughtful girl with a gentle spirit..." along with a few other memories from our class. I only hope if she were here today, she would think the same of me.

After a few moments of reflection on her class and my childhood, I opened the letter and began to read. It was all I could do not to laugh. The letter began with this:

"Dear Elizabeth,
I hope you are doing well. I hope you are happy. Are you behaving? Are you doing drugs? If you are, you should stop. They are very bad for you. Be nice to your sister. I hope you are getting good grades..."

Wow. I must have had some really high hopes for myself as a high schooler. It's nice to know my 10-year-old self didn't have much confidence in my future character.

Granted, since I was young, I was always accused of being "motherly" for my age. I acted as a miniature mom to kids who were crying in preschool, bringing them tissues and giving them hugs (or so I'm told; I don't remember this). After my sister was born, I was convinced I knew exactly how my mother should be raising her, and I shared my opinions on her upbringing freely. (Disclaimer: my mom has always been an amazing parent to my sister and I--as has my dad-- and always made us feel loved and cherished) I'm not sure why I felt I knew better than they did how to be a parent.

Regardless, I'm happy to report that, no, I am not doing drugs, nor have I ever. Oh, and yes, I am aware of the dangers of drugs. I managed to keep my grades up, even though math has always been my enemy. I don't have much hope with physics either. I am happy, thank you very much, and other than my old lady knee that creaks when I go up a set of stairs, I am doing well.

September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Today, please take a moment to reflect on those who passed on this day ten years ago.

Many communities have organized memorials and many police and fire stations have acquired a piece of the Trade Center to display. Check your local newspaper or online local news to find out if your community has anything planned to remember the day.

I'll be spending the day surrounded by family and those I love. Life is fleeting, as we saw so obviously on September 11, 2001. I plan on reminding everyone how much they mean to me, because we are never promised tomorrow, we only have the present. In my family, we make an effort to always say, "I love you" before we leave, and hugs are plentiful. I encourage you to do the same, because life can be taken so quickly, and there is no more obvious reminder of that than the gaping hole left in the hearts of Americans, indeed the world, ten years ago. That wound has never and probably will never completely heal, but those affected have memories to get them through. I, for one, want to always leave a positive memory.

To read my story of September 11, click here.

Out of the depths of sorrow and sacrifice will be born again the glory of mankind." - Winston Churchill

If you'd like, please share your 9/11 story below. I believe that as Americans, but more generally as supporters of a peaceful, compassionate humanity, we are all connected by that day. Together we mourned, watched in disbelief, and together, we have begun to rise above the ashes of the Trade Center once more.

September 10, 2011

Oh, But The Leaves

I have an announcement.

It's hugely exciting.

Are you ready??

The leaves are turning color!!! I love this time of year. It's beautiful here in Michigan during the autumn months, and even more exciting is the fact that fall means winter is just around the corner, and do you know what that means? Christmas. I love absolutely everything about Christmas. The lights, the music, the gently falling snow glistening under the street lamps, the hot cocoa by the Christmas tree..everything.

My boyfriend took this photo on Michigan State
University's campus last year--beautiful!
I'm getting ahead of myself. Fall. As a kid, I looked forward to packing up all my new school supplies, unpacking, and then repacking them and heading off to school in the morning. Fall also meant my birthday had arrived (even though now it means I'm getting older, apparently), and that provided an excitement all its own. Plus, what's more fun as a kid than raking up the leaves into a huge pile and promptly throwing yourself into them, effectively destroying the newly raked lawn?

This year, fall meant a new beginning for me, in a way. It felt a little strange not packing up my possessions to move back into a cramped dorm room, but not doing so also began to solidify the thought that if I so choose, I could be done with school forever. Very strange feeling, indeed.

I'm officially not a student now, though I believe I will always be a student at heart. New things fascinate me, and I thoroughly enjoy soaking up the information contained between the binding of a brand new book. The amount of books I read increases tenfold as the weather turns cooler, I think. To me, there is nothing more satisfying than being surrounded by the beauty in nature with my nose in a book, curled up in a cozy blanket, and something warm to drink. Ah, perfection.

September 7, 2011

Another Year Older

Tuesday was my birthday, and what an interesting one it was.

You see, it began with a visit to the doctor's office, which is not exactly my idea of a good time on my birthday. I was there for a routine check-up, but decided to mention that lately I have been wheezing after some time on the treadmill. Odd, right?

After a breathing test (don't ask me the technical term) and an EKG, what did the doctor report? Perhaps I'm just getting older. Excuse me??OLDER?? I'm just into my 20s! I've only become a real adult in the last couple of years! How could that possibly be a real explanation? This is supposed to be the best shape I'll ever be in...and if this is what it's like...well, it's just not a good sign at all.

This came on the heels of an elementary student inquiring about my age, and responded with, "you're over halfway to 40!" Thanks, Kiddo, you know just what to say.

Later on, I was blessed to celebrate with my family and boyfriend after what seemed like the longest birthday I've had. They know me all too well, of course. From my boyfriend, I received a few essentials for my growing bar collection including new martini and shot glasses, as well as some handy tools to go with them.

My family gave me things dealing with Duchess Catherine (or Kate Middleton, as some still say). A new book and a magazine? Awesome.

All in all, it was a pretty good birthday, and I'm grateful to be surrounded by so many well-wishers. Honestly, I'm excited about what I can accomplish between now and my next birthday...even if it means I'm getting older.

September 3, 2011

Who's Ready For Football??

Shhh..What's that sound?

Some of favorite sounds of the fall, of course! College football season has officially begun, and the fans are out tailgating, and announcers are making cheesy comments. 

I am happy to report the Spartan victory over Youngstown State on Friday. Granted, Michigan State had it relatively easy playing the Division II school, but least we didn't suffer the same embarrassment as the University of Michigan in 2007 when they lost to Appalachian State. The only thing that would've been better is if Michigan had played Slippery Rock again and lost to them. Talk about karma.

My first game at the Big House with my boyfriend
and our good friend Chad!

Personally, I'm getting excited to see the Michigan vs. Michigan State game this year, especially after State's win last year. It was my first time at the Big House in Ann Arbor, and even though I'm not a Michigan fan, I will admit it was pretty cool, even though I did the unthinkable: I wore a Michigan shirt.

I promise it wasn't mine, I had to borrow it. I still maintain I did so for safety reasons since I would have been pretty outnumbered in MSU gear in the middle of the UM student section. Yikes!

We had awesome seats, too. We were on the Michigan 20-yard line, and only about 15 rows up. Can't get much better than that!

If you ever get the chance, even if you're not a Michigan fan, go to the Big House for a game. The atmosphere is incredible. There is so much energy from the fans (of course, the closer to the student section, the better!), and the approving roar coming from the stadium after each touchdown is overwhelmingly satisfying.

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to perching in front of my T.V. with a bowl of popcorn on Saturdays (Yes, Mondays, too!), turning the volume up, and obsessively checking my Fantasy Football team's stats.

September 2, 2011

Lead With Responsibility

Recently, I read an article about members of Congress feeling that they don't receive enough pay.

Before I share my opinion on the matter, let's take a moment to remember that the members of Congress enjoy "$174,000 annual salary, generous health care and pensions, and perks for things like travel and mail."

I'm sorry, how many people enjoy those perks and benefits? Not many.

Let's talk about how many people live under the poverty line. According to the University of Michigan, that number was 14.3% of US citizens in 2009. Do the math. That's about 43 million in poverty. That doesn't include the number of people struggling to get by who live just above the poverty line. In 2010, 52 million people were without insurance.

Ok. Now tell me your insurance, pensions, and pay aren't quite enough.

It's called financial responsibility. If these Congressmen (and women) are living paycheck to paycheck as some claim to be, perhaps it's time to look at the mortgages, car payments, and credit card bills. Downsize, people. Heaven knows millions of Americans have had to do that in the last few years, especially.

For some, becoming a member of Congress meant a pay raise. What gives? How were you living before? Looks like it's time to go back to that lifestyle if you want to save up more money.

They have kids to put through college? So did my parents. I guarantee you they did not make that much money.  It's called student loans. I've got 'em, and so do millions of other twenty-somethings.

I'll admit I don't know their full stories, but honestly, I don't think this is the time for them to be asking for a pay raise. Remember that little thing called a default? That almost happened. Too soon, folks, too soon. Remember all those people who are unemployed? What about the people without power or homes because of hurricane Irene? Maybe it's the time to work on those issues.

After all, that's why they were elected, right? Too look out for our best interests? Hmmm...

Call me a cynic, but I'm a little annoyed at the irresponsibility of the government, and I suppose I don't have a lot of pity for them right now.

To read the original article click here.

What are your thoughts on the matter??

August 31, 2011

Adventures in Interviewland

I had an interview in Detroit on Monday. Normally, this would be exciting, and it was, until I had to actually get there.

My interview was set to begin at 3 pm, and in situations like that, I am very particular about being there at least 10-15 minutes early. Knowing that one of my greatest talents is getting lost, I arrived in Detroit at 2:15 to give myself plenty of time to figure out how to get to the office. As it turns out, I did drive around for about 15 minutes before I found what I believed to be the correct building and the parking structure across the street, as described in the email I was following. Great.

Enter my inability to understand driving directions.
I walked around this particular monument about 4 times..

I exited the parking structure and crossed the busy street, walked into the building and loved the sound of my heels clicking against the marble floors. I spoke to a very nice gentleman at the reception area, who assured me I was absolutely not in the correct place. In fact, I was four blocks away.


Four blocks isn't too bad, I thought. Oh, how wrong I was. That four blocks turned into 1 mile. Keep in mind that it was 83 degrees outside, the sun was relentless, I was lost, and I had 20 minutes to walk a mile in heels across the city, and that 20 minutes would put me at the office at exactly 3 pm.

By the time I arrived at the correct location, my feet were bleeding from the blisters that both formed and popped in the first 10 minutes of my trek. My shirt was nearly soaked through with sweat (something that has never happened to me, incidentally, even after half an hour on the treadmill, I never sweat that much! Gross.) I was 4 minutes late, and my stress level was out of control. My hair was matted to my head and I was the epitome of a "hot mess" at that point.

I imagine this was the general additude of my
blistered toes by the time I arrived home.

Frankly, I was amazed they let me join the interview given my appearance and tardiness. I did the best I could to answer the questions and appear unphased by my body temperature (I must admit, I was impressed with my self-control as I resisted fanning myself or attempting to clean my bloodied feet). In the end, they were very kind about the whole thing.

I'm not sure if I'll be called back for a second interview, but regardless, this was an important learning experience. I know that I have a strong drive to make things happen, and I think that came through as I practically ran to get to the interview on time. I know that next time, I will definitely make sure I drive by the proper office a day or two ahead of time.

The walk back to my car was one of the most painful walks in my life...paying $17.50 for parking was offensive to me as well. I'm not sure I can think of any parking structure that is worth that fee for an hour and a half.

So was the Journey Through Interviewland from Hell.
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