Wednesday, December 21, 2011

ReverbBroads11 - College Life

If you haven't heard that I'm blogging with #ReverbBroads11, you may be a little behind my life story. Today's prompt: If you could return to college, what would you major in and why?


I pretty much planned my life out from the day I was born. That may sound like an exaggeration, but I'm certain my mother would agree. (Anyone in my regular life DISAGREE with this statement?) Therefore, the day that I realized that my Public Relations Bachelor's degree was not for me (that date was August 18, 2006) was a pretty dreadful day. I completed the internship, without telling Beverly that I wasn't going to be going into the field, and came back to Kalamazoo, MI, feeling kind of in trouble.

I did other internships and ended up teaching a First Year Seminar course (like the world knew how my stars would align in December of 2011) and doing an internship in LGBT Student Services. Those two things led me on my path to my Master's in Higher Education Student Affairs Leadership, so I'm not sure I would have changed my major, because I know my PR experience is what got me my Graduate Assistantship in the College of Aviation. My English minor is what kept my sanity (and still does, to this day.)

I would have changed my Social Work minor. I added it to give me an additional semester in college, as I wasn't sure I wanted to start a grad program in January, and I knew I'd need to do that if I graduated in December. If I could go back, I would have minored in a language. I took French in high school (honestly, for my chosen career path and life, it was a waste.) But, if I was smart, I would have taken Spanish.

Currently, I'm trying to find someone in the Chicago area that is interested in taking Spanish with me. I don't want to take it alone, but I think it would be the best thing for me as far as my career path goes.

Are you wondering why I remember August 18, 2006? That's the day that Snakes on a Plane came out. Want to know more? Just ask. It's a...spectacular story.
And no, I've never seen the movie.

Monday, December 19, 2011

#reverbBroads11 - Flashback Photography

This is a REALLY old photograph of me. It was taken with an old friend in Canada my second year of college. I don't use it much anymore, but it's probably my favorite photo of me. It captures me, a little bit in my essence. This is probably one of the last photographs I've taken without Brandon.

Talkative
I'm mid-sentence in this picture. I couldn't tell you what I was talking about, but it was a good story. Don't worry, they all are. ;-)
Happy
I'm also laughing. As I mentioned in many posts, laughter is the most important part of life, and it's ridiculous to spend too much time down or sad.
Wannabe Fashionista
I don't know a lot about fashion, but I attempt to pretend I do. I have lots of great shoes, many pairs of glasses, and tons of jewelry. Additionally, the photo is in black and white, and that makes you a little more classy, right?
Friendly & Welcoming
That night, I met a bunch of my friend's friends and, while I didn't know them before that night, we had a great time. I am not in touch with many of them, but I do what I can to get to know everyone and make sure everyone is enjoying themselves.

What would your self portrait say about you?

If you haven't heard, I'm blogging daily through December with #ReverbBroads11. Today's prompt: Self-portrait: Post a picture of you that you like, write about yourself, post a video - what do you want your self-portrait to say about you?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

#ReverbBroads11 - Let's meet!

If you haven't heard, I'm blogging daily with other #ReverbBroads11 through the month of December. Today's prompt: Who would you most like to meet and why?


I am not going to give you just one person, but I'm going to try to structure this in a way that makes sense. At least, it will make sense to me. I participated in (and exceeded) the #52in52 project this year, which guides a lot of this, but this is also a question that I've been asked for years, and some of those answers still exist.

Authors
I'm a bookworm. During college, I lost my love for reading (I think I just lost the time, honestly) but I re-discovered it when I moved to Chicago, thankfully. Through my #52in52 project, these are the authors I'd love to meet:
Greg Mortenson
His book truly inspired me. I read it on the recommendation of my friend, Kate, and fell in love. I did read, later, Three Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakauer, but I still would love to meet Greg. If I did meet him, I probably wouldn't even mention Three Cups of Deceit, as Greg's story is truly a wonderful one. If you haven't read this, please pick up a copy of Three Cups of Tea.
Judy Shepard
I knew that I would cry when I read this story, but I decided to take it with me on the train, anyway. I became "that girl" the one that you try not to stare at as she is sitting there, by herself, sobbing in public, and it was okay. Judy and the Shepard family have gone through so many challenges, but she continues to stand for what she believes in, and to never be a silent bystander.
Additionally, I've always said I want to meet Shakespeare, and I still stand by that. I think it would be quite the dinner conversation. In one of my English courses in college, I was told that my interpretation of some of his sonnet's was incorrect. I would probably ask him about those, videotape the conversation, and then go and find her to prove that I'm right. (I'm stubborn, obviously.)

Musical Group
I went through a period of time in high school when I thought I loved punk rock, and I'm glad that I grew out of that, because I never would have been able to see the Indigo Girls live. While I have seen them live, a few times, I would love to sit down and have a beer with them. They have been together forever, and now that Amy is doing some individual performing on the side, I'd love to know how that is working, and if that has any negative effects on them as a duo. Having performed that long with one person, I wonder if they are still good friends, and how they are still coming up with new music.
I find them fascinating, and I'm sure most of my questions for them would catch them off guard, but I imagine that we would be great friends, after they could get over my obsession :)

Down to Earth
There are many famous people I'd love to meet (Ellen, Rosie, The Obama family & The Clinton's, to name a few) and many famous people that I hope I never meet. But if I could go back in time, with my family, I would love to meet my grandmother and my Papa when they were college-aged. I don't remember my grandfather very much, but I think that would be an excellent time to sit down with them and pick their brains about life, love and happiness.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

#ReverbBroads11: Least Favorite

For those of you who don't know, I'm attempting to blog once daily with #ReverbBroads11, following a daily prompt schedule. Today's prompt: Instead of a list of your favorite things, write a list of your least favorite things, e.g. Worst book you ever finished, the color you hate, bad songs, bad romances, bad recipes.

This is not a hard post to write, however, I do feel a little guilty about some of these things. If you like these things (foods, recipes, songs, actors, etc.) please don't feel that you have to hide it from me. In fact, you can share why you like it with me - especially with food. I'm willing to try to like things, I promise. That being said...

1) Being called Mr. Garrett is the worst. My first name is JUST Alex. So, when most people see "Alex Garrett" they feel the need to respond to Mr. Garrett. All I will say on this is: If you are unsure of the gender of the individual you are addressing, the Mr., Ms., & Mrs. can be eliminated.

2) Keanu Reeves is dreadful. I hadn't thought about him until yesterday, when we ended up talking about The Matrix at lunch, but I cannot stand him. I just looked him up on IMDB and I am shocked to see that he has movies and all sorts of things through 2013. Find me a movie where he was good, please.

3) I hate being disrespected. This applies to life, but most of my examples are work related. When students ask me one thing, but decide my answer is either wrong or they don't like it, so they go to my co-worker to get (hopefully) a different answer, I die a little inside. I do everything I can to make the Earth move for my students, but these little disrespectful acts get me down. Additionally, I hate when I'm talking to some bill payer (about changing service, additional fees that randomly showed up, etc.) and I'm not getting anywhere, when I give the phone to Brandon and he accomplishes it in less than 10 minutes.

4) I don't want to know where my food came from. I am pretty sure I would be a vegetarian if I lived alone and had different hours at work. I don't want to know that Blue Cheese is molded for a few months, right before I shove that spicy sandwich in my mouth. I don't want to know the process for getting that steak, that pork, or the chicken onto my kitchen table. If I think about it long enough, I won't be able to eat it.

5) Christmas music is classic. Don't mess it up by making it Country, or Rock. If you are going to cover a traditional holiday song, please cover it appropriately. And sing Deck the Hall, no S.

6) I love giving my opinion. But if you ask for it, and don't really want it, that's annoying. Please only ask for input if you need it, not just to justify your own decision making, or to make you look better. Additionally, that's all it is. My opinion. We all are entitled to have one, and most of the time, your opinion cannot be wrong, so please don't tell me that it is.

What are your least favorite things?

#ReverbBroads11: Pet Peeves

If you haven't heard, I'm blogging with a group of awesome people, following #ReverbBroads11 and posting with a prompt a day through December. Today's prompt: What are your biggest pet peeves?  

My sophomore year in high school, we had to give a speech on this very topic. I'm pretty sure I got mocked for what I did it on, but it still stands as one of my pet peeves. As I was growing up, my parents kind of let me be free to make my own choices (leading to mistakes), but were of course there to help me pick myself back up. Something that irritates me is over-protective (& do-everything-for-you) parents. You can call them helicopter parents (who really are just very concerned about their child, which is appropriate), or whatever else you want to call them, but I've met so many people who don't have basic life skills (laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, etc.) because their parents have planned, structured, and done their whole life for them. I don't have children, and my thought on this may change, but it just bugs me.

In addition, (this shouldn't come as a surprise) grammar errors irritate me. In re-reading some of my OWN blog posts from the past, while writing on my iPad, I have found some and that is very frustrating. Spell check and grammar checks exist for some reason, so at least use that.

I also cringe at bad pet-owners. I'm not the exemplary pet owner, and I know that, but basic pet training (generally applying this to dogs) is not that complicated, and is necessary.

It also drives me crazy when we put ourselves down, for whatever reason. Whether we are fat, ugly, our hair sucks, our clothes are stupid, or we are stupid, I can't stand to hear those around me put themselves down. We all live a rough life, and we need to remember that we are who we are for a reason. On that note, say 1 nice thing to someone a day and I promise you'll feel tons better.

What are your pet peeves?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

#ReverbBroads11 - All Caught up with New Flavors

I really began to challenge myself in cooking this year. Sometimes this is hard, because I get home at 7:00 after a super busy and long day and the last thing I want to do is chop, dice, sizzle, and stir. But, with Brandon's assistance, we've made some pretty awesome discoveries.

- We tried MANGO (fresh, not a syrup) for the first time. I loved it, but it took 3 mangoes before I figured out how to cut it. I'm not sure if I could even do it again without watching the YouTube video of how to cut a Mango. I never even asked Brandon if he liked it, because I know it's a keeper.
- I started using Dill Weed (a spice, whether or not Brandon believes me.) I'm still not sure it actually does anything, but I've used it.
- We tried polenta, and may or may not have hated it. It is not making a return to our house.
- I had Mochi and (the second time around) loved it. See Brandon's Birthday Extravaganza for pictures.
- B and I ate at Chick Fil A for the first time and while I loved the TASTE I've recently decided I don't know how much I can support the CHAIN. (Want to know more? Just ask!)

What new flavors have you tried this year?

If you haven't heard, I'm blogging with #ReverbBroads11 and a prompt a day through the month of December. Today's prompt: Did you taste any new flavors this year? Did you love or hate them or something in between? Will you incorporate these new flavors into your life?  

#ReverbBroads11 - Volunteering

Woah - Nothing can ever prepare you to take a week off of work (even during finals week). I thought I'd be all ready to stay up to date on #ReverbBroads when I got back from vacation, but I've spent some quality time with my couch and my bed. I've been exhausted, which I guess happens when you have to respond to 240+ emails.

I don't volunteer, and I don't know why. I did some volunteer work in high school, and I worked at my Grandma's work for awhile, too, but once I got to college I never could seem to get back in the groove of volunteering, but I want to.

I really want to do something in my life to give back to the community, like volunteering at a homeless shelter, a women's shelter, or working with kids, but I'm not sure how to get involved. If you are in the Chicago area - do you volunteer? Where, and how often? If you don't currently volunteer, do you know of places that could use volunteers?

The biggest question is why haven't I, and there are a few reasons. One reason is time - I'm still working on balancing my personal life and my work schedule (even after a year and a half in my job). Going along with this, I'm sometimes not willing to give up my Saturday or Sunday morning sleep, which is something that has to change. Finally, I'm not always comfortable going outside of my comfort zone, and I don't know many people in the Chicago area that volunteer, so I can't just tag along with a friend or colleague. I'm hoping I can find somewhere near either work or home in the next year that I can help out at.

If you haven't heard, I'm participating in #ReverbBroads11 with a daily blog prompt through December. For today, Is volunteering something you do regularly? If yes where do you volunteer? If not, why not?

#ReverbBroads11 - 3 Best

On Twitter, I periodically (very rarely, actually) take part in #3best. Some days, it's hard to find 3 things that went right in a day, but I manage. This prompt, however is a lot harder. I don't like to brag, and in my constant comparison of myself to others, I don't think I'm better at much, at least not in comparison. I contemplated not doing this post, but I'm hopeful I can get every post this month (even if they are late.) But, a few days late, here we go:

1) I'm a really fast reader. I managed to read 52 books in the first 40 or so weeks this year. I obtain most of the information, too. In 3rd grade, I checked a book out for silent reading hour and returned it to the library at the end of the hour. My teacher asked why I didn't like the book - she had recommended it. I told her I loved it, and she didn't believe I had finished that quickly, so she gave me a quiz (which I aced.) 
2) I'm an excellent gift giver. Honestly, I don't have a very good memory (this makes starting a new job tricky, especially when meeting students) but I latch on when people talk about what they have always wanted (like the Back to the Future trilogy on VHS), or when they talk about things they need, or had as a child that they miss (like a Wood Engraver). I love giving gifts, but don't really like receiving them, because I get nervous (something I cannot explain.)
3) I won't go as far as saying I'm an excellent writer (again, in comparison, I couldn't finish my NaNoWriMo novel) but I'm a fabulous proofreader. Spelling, punctuation, spacing, all of it. I attribute that to my two years as my high school yearbook editor, and my high school English teacher. It's an awesome skill, but it also then irritates me when I get professional publications, emails or letters that are incorrect. I'm always willing to read things through, if you'd like.


If you haven't heard, I'm participating in #ReverbBroads11, a post a day through the month of December. Today's prompt: What are three things you are better at than most people?

12/9/2011 #ReverbBroads11 - Children's Book

When I was younger, I had a library. Sounds cute, right? Well, it was a little obsessive. You had to check the books out, and I'm sure I'd try to fine you if you returned it late. My parents still have most of them, but I've slowly taken the books back, especially my favorites. I loved The American Girl, The Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys so much, but in re-thinking, here are my favorites.

1) Cap'n O.G. Read More - I still can quote this book. This cat has such an appetite for books, and whenever my own cat "comes back" from somewhere in the house, I serenade Brandon with the details of this cat and his love for reading.

2) The Very Hungry Caterpillar - what is not to love about this colorful, fun, learning book?
3) I Have To Go - this book is about the need to pee. Not necessarily a potty training book, but it was a staple growing up, especially on road trips. I have what a friend of mine refers to as a hummingbird bladder, so this was always enjoyable, because it was generally true.

4) Love You Forever - My dad was military, and I remember (this could be a made up memory) reading this book, about the love from parents to children, and thinking that my dad could hear me and knew that was true, no matter where he was.
5) In the Night Kitchen - I remember loving this book. I still have it, even if it is inappropriate with a naked child. The illustrations are brilliant, and I still enjoy this classic.

6) Stand Back Said the Elephant - My dad would do the greatest voices to books. Since he was gone a lot, he made me a tape recording of him reading a number of my favorites. This one always had the best voices, and was also very, very silly.
7) Paper Bag Princess - My mom always read this tale to me. It was ridiculous, but all I remember was loving the story and the illustrations. I don't own this any,ore, so I may need to put it on a wish list (or just buy it for myself.)

8) the Indian in the Cupboard - I recently bought this movie from a $5.00 bin and it was just as amazing I remember. I did a lot of dress up and pretend play, and I remember incorporating a magical cabinet into my play time, too.
9) The Egypt Game - A book that I read later in my childhood, but one that I loved. I still own this, and actually bought her second novel (The Gypsy Game) recently. Of course, I read it a lot faster, but I still loved it. The friendship between Melanie and April was something that I longed for, as I remember struggling to have that long lasting friendship, especially considering how often I moved schools during elementary school.

I normally hate to leave things at such an awkward number, but those are my nine favorites. Even if you are not participating in #ReverbBroads11, I hope you share your favorites with me.


If you haven't heard, I'm participating (but can't seem to remember to actually PUBLISH the posts) in #ReverbBroads11, a daily prompt through December. Today's prompt: What was your favorite children's book?

Monday, December 12, 2011

#ReverbBroads11: Guilty (Updated)

Woah. I told a co-worker today that I loved #ReverbBroads because it kept me thinking. However, I was not ready for today's prompt. Then, I wrote this prompt last night about a good beer and my favorite bar (The Red Line Tap. They allow dogs - what else do you need to know?) But as I sat on the train this morning, I smelled (a good smell, for once) my favorite, most secret guilty pleasure. I'm sure Brandon doesn't even know this (although he will now, because I share every one of my blog posts with him.)

I have lots of guilty pleasures. Bad music (Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga), Bad TV shows (Glee because of my friend Derik Nelson,) a good beer over a run on the treadmill, coffee (but I gave it up for my morning protein shakes), family time, cupcakes (MORE, preferably) and I'm sure the list goes on.

Honestly, I can't live without listening to Mom Jeans or My New Christmas Sweater, but mostly, my guilty pleasure is chocolate & salt. It started last year. For those of you who don't know, Brandon worked at GameStop part-ish time last year. Most nights, I'd come home and turn on a movie, just to keep noise in the house. One night, I made popcorn right when I got home, because I was hungry and I'd normally wait for dinner until Brandon got home. I ate some of it, but got distracted (most likely by work email) and it got cold. I didn't want to throw a whole bowl away, so I peeked in the fridge and saw chocolate syrup. I drizzled chocolate syrup on the popcorn and ate it. It may sound weird, but it was amazing.

Since then, I haven't been able to get enough of salt & chocolate. I've made salted hot chocolate (delicious. Apparently Starbucks sells it?), attempted salted chocolate cupcakes, tried out Mr. Goodbar again, and had another bowl of chocolate popcorn.

I could live without this guilty pleasure, as I don't have it that often. I'll probably have to make chocolate popcorn tonight, just so that Brandon can try it. I also think that, if I was not allowed to eat this, I'd come up with another guilty pleasure.

My iPad guilty pleasure? Fruit Ninja. If you haven't played it, you need to check it out.

If you haven't heard, I'm writing in December with a prompt-a-day. Today's prompt:  Name and explain the one guilty pleasure you can't live without.  ie: that cupcake shop you visit weekly, a book you repeatedly read to find solace in, etc).  Then explore the idea of how you would feel if you gave that thing up for a year.   

#ReverbBroads11: Alex & Kristin

I asked Brandon "how am I like my mother" and he responded "How AREN'T you like your mama?" Unsure of what that meant, I dug a little deep.

We both are McSassyPants101. I'm full of sass. (Honestly, I was never sure of how to use the word sass until I meant Julia D.) My mother is the SAME way. We have the same attitude, the same response to life, and the same sass. Translation: we have a comeback to life.

We're both short, fiesty and we can't stop talking. I've worked (not very hard) to alter my talkative gene, but it's really just brought out my contagious laugh gene. My mother introduced me (at a young age, I'm certain) to laughter. I incorporate this into my love, my laughter, my work with students, and my overall life.

The most important thing in life is to make sure you laugh once a day, and I don't think I could have taken a better piece of advice from the smartest, most lovely and strong woman I know.

#ReverbBroads11: Worst/Best Thing of Your Life

I think I've mentioned this once or twice (or a thousand times,) but I just returned from an eight day vacation to visit my family. This sort of answers my whole Worst/Best moments...

I took 6 days off of work, at the end of the semester, at finals week, to visit my parents at a time that can be the busiest time for an office. I've also mentioned that I'm transitioning out of one job (Coordinator of Student Life) and into another job (Coordinator of Campus Life) that I'm super happy about. The best thing in my life right now is that. I'm in a job that trusts me, and values me. They trust me, in that they are willing to allow me this type of vacation (where I'm the only one who can do my job in my current job) and they also recognize my talents and are willing to transition me into a new job (while letting me design that job a little bit.) I've struggled in my career path, as we all have, but this is a place that values what I give back to the institution and is willing to use my strengths to help advance not only my department but the university as a whole.

On the other side, I'm really far away from my family. I live in Chicago, IL and my brother (16) and sister (19) live with my parents in Gardnerville, NV (outside of Reno). While my partner and I live 3.5 hours from his parents (Grand Rapids, MI) and 5 hours from his brother and wife (Eau Claire, WI), spending every holiday (Fathers Day, Mothers Day, Thanksgiving & Christmas) with them is not always what I need or want at the holidays. Yes, we could split and spend the holidays with our families (making the holidays super expensive, as I spent $400+ on my plane ticket home), but I want to spend the holidays together. Unfortunately, it seems that we can't split holidays until we get married (an action that may take a while, as we aren't interested at this time) and that makes the holidays hard. Holidays are a rough time, especially when both of my mother's parents have passed. The holidays are a time for everyone, but I wonder how others (married, committed, or otherwise) deal with the difficulty of dividing your lives between families.

If you haven't heard, I'm spending my December in a prompt-full-blog-month. Today's prompt: What is the best and/or worst thing about your life right now?

#reverbBroads11: My 12/8/2011 Oops

If you didn't know, I spent the last week PLUS in Nevada. My parents and my baby siblings live there, so Brandon and I went to visit. He stayed for 4 days, I stayed for a lot longer. I spent my internet time on my life and my iPad. While I love the iPad, I realized that I either need to change blogs (blogspot is HTML and the iPad doesn't like that, apparently.) I realized (just now, on 12/12/11) that I missed a prompt, so here it is.

I tried to start blogging a long, long, long time ago, possibly back in the days of LiveJournal (does anyone even remember that?) This blog goes back to me taking my most recent job of the Coordinator of Student Life (a job that I am currently transitioning out of. I'll post about that in January.) I started blogging for our friends - to share my life with Brandon, in Chicago, with our Kalamazoo, MI friends; with our Grand Rapids, MI, Kalamazoo, MI, Battle Creek, MI, Cincinnati, OH & Gardnerville, NV family; and with anyone else interested. Since then, the Canada family has started watching, as have our Chicago friends.

I kept blogging because it challenged me. It challenged me to stay connected, and to keep taking photos and chronicling our life. Because of my blog, I have a photo for our Christmas cards this year. I've been able to keep in touch with Barb (and maybe other Canada "family") and I've been able to savor the memories.

What I haven't done is blog about work. I'm transitioning into a job that I think (hope?) I'm going to love, love, love. And I hope that, along with the ties to family and those far away, helps me stay blogging.

If you didn't know, I'm participating in an awesome blog-prompt-filled-December, #ReverbBroads11. Today's prompt: Why blog? Why do you or why do you like to blog (recognizing that these are not always the same thing)?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

#reverbBroads11 - Laughter is the best medicine.

"It's not my fault you're a boxer."


"Great. I have cheetah legs and I have to leave."

Using winter gloves to drink a mug of mint tea.

Standing in the middle of the room, discussing who the ring leader of the toys would be.

"Why are you hibernating? You're not a bear."

"You should go Tungle somewhere else."

With this post, a lot of people listed everyone (or everything) that makes them laugh. Comedians are hit or miss with me, as are stupid youtube videos, email forwards, and most television shows. However, there is one person who can always make me laugh (whether or not he is trying to.)



I always talk about being super, super serious, and it's kind of true. However, I find that I continually surround myself with amusing characters. The funniest person in my life is my partner, Brandon. He keeps me on my toes, he makes me happy, and he keeps me laughing. My life since I met Brandon, as summed up by the Indigo Girls, was "wide-eyed-laughing."



He doesn't always think he's funny, but he is. He shares cooking tips with me (like that you should wear snowboarding goggles when cutting onions,) and lets me know how overwhelming my Google calendar is (that looks like Skittles threw up on your calendar, honey).



He's also very young, and I think will always be, at heart. He loves stupid tee-shirts (this is the oldest I've ever been), toys (he gets a Toy Story toy a least once a year) and is an active video gamer. But on the side, he's the funniest person I've ever met.


Most of all, he can make me laugh, even when I'm having a super rough time in life. Our regular daily interactions involve amazing (while sometimes inappropriate) quotes (I feel like my armpit has to fart), serious questions (do you think the Energizer Bunny ever gets bored) and all around confusion (who is Erin Water and why does she have her own show?)



He regularly has interactions with the animals that keep me giggling for days (vamoos goes the dog.) but ultimately, he knows me the best. "You've gotta be sassy. You're a ninja!"



If I could take one thing from this funny man in my life, it would be this. "Easy going. It's like my life."

 
If you haven't heard, I'm participating in #ReverbBroads11 this month. Today's prompt: Who or what makes you laugh so hard you spit milk out of your nose and why?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

#reverbBroads11 - Day 6: My top 10 Nevers

I asked a lot of people what was one thing they'd never do and got a lot of answers of things I've already done. Some of those include eating odd meats (I've eaten alligator,) learning how to fly an airplane (I will do this before I turn 60,) move in with someone without a commitment/wedding ring (I live with Brandon, my partner,) and the list continues. Needless to say, this was kind of difficult for me, as I don't want to limit myself on life. I'm aware that this list is random, but challenge yourself to have a non-random list of things you have sworn to never do, or that you know you will never do.

- Post sonograms of my child anywhere (my office, Facebook, etc.) If I ever have children, that will be shared with those very close to me, and no one else.

- Have two separate Twitter or Facebook accounts. As an educator, I think it's really important to practice good social media behavior, so I will never (again) do that.

- Work with children under the age of 17. I have spent my vacation working with my Mother, Father and Sister who run a musical theater program for children (sometimes adults, too.) My dad also works in a middle school, and as I write this, I'm sitting in his auditorium going crazy. I have such respect for educators that can work with this age group, as I know how challenging it is.

- I will never win a track competition, or place first in my age group in any running event. I've tried, and I'm okay with this. This doesn't mean that I won't participate, and I'll probably (at some point) enjoy it.

- I will never perform on a Broadway stage. Many people can (should?) say this, but for me, I'm pretty confident that my sister will, which is an awesome accomplishment for her, and gives me the ease to say that I won't.

- I will never live on the same property as my parents, or my partners parents. This may seem like a harsh statement, but I want to preserve the relationship between the grand parents and the grand children. I lived on the same property as my grandmother and it really strained the relationship. I won't change much about my parenting style based on my parents, but I will work hard to keep that a loving, caring relationship.

- I will never move back in with my parents. As I watch friends struggle, either getting divorced, losing a job, or not being able to find a job out of college, I see them move back in with their parents. If everything in my life changed tomorrow, I would just find other options. My parents are still raising my brother (16) and my sister (19), so that wouldn't be a reasonable option for me.

- I will never not have a Christmas tree. I could have the tiniest apartment ever, but I would always find room for a regular-sized tree. For as long as I can remember, Christmas has been a huge part of my life and I cannot imagine living through November and December without having holiday decorations.

- I will never stop my fight against inclusive language. I think its really important to use inclusive phrases (elimination of you guys, that's gay, etc.) and I really see the value in those conversations, with everyone from my family members to the students and colleagues I work with.

- I will never own a deep fryer. In college, my friends had them and used them constantly. Its not healthy and in my hopes to live a healthy lifestyle, I have banned this item from my kitchen (and hopefully from the kitchens of those around me.)

If you haven't heard, I'm participating in #ReverbBroads11 this month. Today's prompt: List 10 things you would never do.

Monday, December 5, 2011

#reverbBroads11 - Day 5: Personal Success

I have a confession to make: I'm not a very good blogger. However, when I went back through my blog from the last year, I found a lot of things that I said I would do and actually did this year, but there was one that goes back a LONG time.
I dated a good friend (who I'm not in touch with anymore) my sophomore year of high school. He was going skiing and asked me to come with him. I told him I was busy (I didn't use the "I'm washing my hair" excuse, although I should have) and said I'd go sometime. I never told him I'd never gone.
My best friend worked the slopes. A guy I dated junior year worked the slopes. Most of my friends skiied. But I always had excuses. And that's all they were. "I don't have the money. The time. The energy. The motivation."
Another confession: I. Was. Scared.
Brandon's uncle lives in British Columbia. He got re-married on top of a ski hill. Guess what I did? I learned how to ski. After eight years of saying "someday," I did it. And you know what? I was pretty good. No, I didn't leave the bunny hills. But I also didn't fall. Not once.
I can't tell you if I'll do it again, but knowing the family of Brandon, I probably will. It was one of the most intimidating, scary moments of my life, because I was worried of the ifs... What if... I fall? I'm not very good? I can't do it? I fail?
I stepped outside of my comfort zone, and I didn't fail. But, even if I had failed, what matters is that I took the opportunity to do something new, something different, and something that scared me. And that is wroth all the falls in the world.

If you haven't heard, I'm participating in #ReverbBroads11 this month. Today's prompt: What is the one thing you finally did this year that you always wanted or said you would do, but in your heart of hearts never thought you would actually do?

#reverbBroads11 - Day 4: Calista, Seth & Bette

Part of the reason my posts are super behind right now is because I'm in the land of one cell phone provider (not the one I have) and limited internet access, also known as vacation for the holidays with my family. I've cast my movie, rather simply, and you'll notice that my family takes up the majority of my cast because, while they aren't close in proximity, they are the majority of my life.
My father (Rich) would be played by Tim Alan. He's funny, he does insane voices (sometimes while he should be serious,) and he has a wicked love for Christmas, which I assume Tim shares because, how can you not love Christmas if you've done at least 4 Christmas movies. Tim Alan would be married, happily, to Bette Midler, my mother (Kris). I really have one reason for this: attitude.
Their children would be Kristin Chenoweth (my younger sister, Brynn, the funniest, most talented woman I know,) Zack Efron (my younger brother, Braeden, an amazing dancer), and Calista Flockhart (me.) Calista is a blast from the past, I know, but her unique voice (I have a raspy voice. No, I'm not sick.) and her level of sass are a pretty good comparison to mine.
Calista Flockhart would be in a long-term relationship with Seth Rogen (Brandon, my partner of 5 years, a gentle soul with an amazing combination of wit and sarcasm.) Family wise, you would also meet Kathy Bates playing my grandmother (Collene), a woman who recently passed away but was devoted to child so much she was always a child at heart, but full of sass.
You would also meet my best friend (John), played by Rupert Everett (voice of Prince Charming in Shrek) and my good friend who is kind of like a brother (Matt), played by Eric McCormick (Will from Will and Grace.) Finally, you would meet my godfather (Jeff), an over the top, spectacular and wonderfully talented man, Jim Carey.
As evident by the cast, this would have to be a comedy. However, I think everyone in the cast would know it's a comedy except for Calista/me. As referenced in blog #1 for #reverbBroads11, I tend to take everything a little seriously. A line in the show, spoken by Bette/my mom when she first meets Seth/Brandon, would be "Alex is serious enough for all of us."
While I don't know the majority of the events, I can tell a few that would make an appearance. One would include my parents and Jim/Jeff as I decide to pursue a career as a band promoter - a decision that also meant leaving the theater behind. (I grew up in a musical theater family. My parents now run their own children's musical theater company in Nevada.)
Another would be a conversation I have when I decide to move in with Seth/Brandon, a conversation that would involve my sister and my mother. This was a conversation that I thought would be a big deal. (Boy, was I wrong!) This would lead to a scene where the whole family (all the players except Jeff) meet Seth/Brandon.
I would also have to include the difficult conversation I had with my mother about changing career paths - another conversation that didn't go as awfully as I had planned.
I don't know how my story ends - so I can't imagine all of the points that will be in there, but I can kind of imagine a storybook ending. I'm not traditional in many things (remember, I've been in a relationship for 5 years with no plans or desired plans for a wedding,) but I kind of think that will happen, and I see my moving ending, in a positive way with many ups and not many downs, at my wedding. A family reunion, full of lots and lots of laughter, is perfect for someone so family centered.
This is one blog post I may revisit every year, as I know that over the years many things will happen that will need to be included in my life.

If you haven't heard, I'm participating in #ReverbBroads11 this month. Today's prompt: In the movie version of your life, who would play you and the significant players in your life? What kind of movie is it, what would be the major plot points and how would it end?

#reverbBroads 11 - Day 3: Growing up? What's that?

My favorite type of movies are Disney movies. I have more cartoons on my Netflix list than anything else. When I was a child, I would dance around my living room to the Mary Martin version of Peter Pan. (At one point, but I may or may not have tied my grandmother up, while she slept, with a hook.) Needless to say, I take the plan to remain a child very seriously.

However, as you get older, you are bound to do things to grow up. Four years ago, I moved in with my partner. We're still together, and this past year he moved to Chicago with me. He had no job, not even a job prospect, just a degree and our love. That's kind of an adult thing to do.
Obviously, I got a big-kid job last year. That's an adult thing. However, my career places me in college for the rest of my life, so I can't say that I'm really grown up.
I put myself through college, and in the last year I've attempted to begin paying off those loans. Again, adult.
Also, I finished my Christmas shopping by the beginning of December. However, most people ended up with toys, so I'm not sure how grown up this accomplishment is.
However, in the last year, I've gone to the zoo a million times. (It helps to have a free zoo.) I've fallen in love with the Disney store (again), and increased the number of Disney movies I own. I've embraced the idea of being a responsible young adult. I pay my bills, I go see my family, but I also enjoy life.
I hate cliche quotes, but you really only live once. I know we all have to grow up, but I also think we need to laugh and embrace our inner child more than once a year.
If you haven't heard, I'm participating in #ReverbBroads11 this month. Today's prompt: How did you become more of a grown-up this year? Or did you pull a Peter Pan and stubbornly remain childish?

Friday, December 2, 2011

#reverbbroads11 - Stupidest Moment Ever

As I've read other blogs about this, I think we all beat ourselves up a lot over the "stupid" things we've done. We all make mistakes. If we take chances, sometimes we are destined to embarrass ourselves, other times we are destined to fall on our face, but I don't think they are all "stupid" things.

I flew from Chicago to Nevada today, on day 1 of my 10 day vacation, and I spent a lot of time thinking about my stupidest moment of this year, or of my lifetime. One thing that I've been working on lately is not caring what other's think about me, or my choices in life, and doing what I want to do and making my own choices. That idea is where this story comes from.

I was in middle school. Middle school is a rough time for everyone, and I remember constantly struggling with being myself (an eccentric, crazy dresser) and fitting in (something that never did happen.) I sat with M regularly at lunch. She lived near me, so we also walked home together a lot. One day in gym class (the worst class ever assigned to middle school students), A (someone who I really wanted to like me,) told M she was gross, kicked at her and told her to "leave her alone."

I stood right there and watched it happen. It could have been any of us, really. Looking back, A was not very nice to anyone. In that moment, M needed a friend. Someone to console her, to tell her that it would get better. But in that moment, all I could do was know that if I stood up to A, she wouldn't like me.

News flash: She never did like me. We never were friends. Additionally, M and I were not friends after that point. We've lost touch, and I've never apologized. Who knows if she remembers this, but to this day, I do what I can to stand up for others and work really hard to ignore what others think, so that I don't replicate such a stupid mistake.

If, somehow, M does read this, I want you to know that I'm sorry. I never expect complete forgiveness, but I hope you were able to find support and comfort in your time of need.

If you didn't know, I'm blogging with the #ReverbBroads11. Today's prompt: What is the stupidest thing you've done this year? What about your whole life?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

#reverbbroads11: Dear Alex

Dear 17-year-old-Alex,

Slow down. Please.

I have to admit, I'm super proud of you. You're one class away from your Associate's degree, and you haven't even graduated high school yet. Admittedly, this is quite an accomplishment, but you have to slow down. You are missing out on your life.

Give your brother and sister a break. They love you, and they just want to be friends with you. Soon, you're going to miss them. Spend some time with them; go to the movies, to a concert, just drive around. They are young (and I'm sure that can be annoying) but you will never get that time back.

Give mom and dad a break, too. Try to bite your tongue once in awhile because, just maybe, they are right. They have bent over backwards to give you everything you want and have never asked for anything back. You are about to get just what you asked for, but then things will change.

Hang out with your grandma. Since she got sick, your relationship with her has been strained. That's expected when you take on so much and it feels more like a responsibility then a grandma-granddaughter relationship. You have no clue how much you will miss her. A year later, you still dial her phone number, only to remember there isn't a comforting voice over that line, there aren't any more ridiculous hats coming, and there is no one there to just listen when you need it. Cherish what little time you have there.

Give him up. I know, right now, you think he's your world, but he isn't. You will move on, and you will find one of the most kind-hearted, caring and gentle men out there. I can't tell you how that turns out, but, for your sake, just let him go.

I know this seems like a lot of (uncalled for) advice, but I just want you to slow down. You whipped through high school, achieving something some people never achieve in a life time. Unfortunately, that attitude followed you in college. You succeeded, as you always have, but you whipped through college, too. You missed out on a lot of opportunities because you did your Bachelor's degree in three years; you then will launch right into a Master's degree, and get hired straight out of college.

It won't be until that caring, kind-hearted man forces you to that you begin to slow down and take each moment for what it's worth. Cherish your friendships, your family, and your time. You'll appreciate it, I promise.

Keep your sass, though. It suits you.
-Alex

I'm joining #reverbbroads11. Today's prompt:
If the you of today could go back in time and give advice to any of the previous yous, which age would you visit and what would you tell them?

Monday, October 10, 2011

When autumn leaves start to fall...

I don't know about where you are, but the weather has been teasing us. Is it fall, is it summer, is it maybe spring? I decided today that it is officially fall and I kicked it off with this outfit - I've started following a number of fashion blogs (don't worry, I won't turn this into one) in the hopes of finding ways to wear those random accessories I own that I'm never sure what to do with.

Today, I paired my green/white scarf with a tank top and a long sweater (I can never figure out how to wear these long sweaters) with khaki's. I don't normally wear khaki's or jeans to work, but today was fall break day (a day where our students don't have class.) I decided that was a good enough indicator to kick off Fall. This is what I love about Fall:
The changing colors: yellow, orange and red

The beginning of pumpkin season 
(I don't get to carve pumpkins, but I'll eat/drink it wherever I can!)

A calm in the weather 
(I don't think I'd do very well in tropical climates. I thrive with the chill)

Scarves

Apple cider
(hot or cold, this drink is my favorite!)

The threat of the first snow of the season.
(I love snow!)

What are your favorite things about this wonderful season?

A Morning Girl

A morning girl...that I am not. I've recently joined a group of awesome women (and maybe 1 or 2 men?) on Facebook on a quest to lose 20 pounds by Christmas. I'm actually down 6 since I started, which is just fabulous! I attribute it to three things 1) the support and motivation of these women (1 of them just RAN A MARATHON!) 2) I live in Chicago and I walk EVERYWHERE and 3) my attempt to become more of a morning person.

Since I'm not a morning person, I rarely eat breakfast, but I've been trying to get better about that. I found a few recipes and, after some tweaking, decided to share these amazing breakfast muffins. Let me know what you think!

Ingredients:
1 cup sour milk (put 1 tbsp. vinegar in a 1 cup measure. fill with milk. I use almond milk)
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oat flour (blend 1/2 cup oats until powdery - I suggest NOT skipping this ingredient)
1/2 cup wheat flour (I don't have this. I use regular flour and it's fine.)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup oats
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Combine sour milk, applesauce, margarine, vanilla, egg and sugar. Mix well
3. Stir together oat flour, flour, baking soda and cinnamon.
4. Add flour mixture to wet mixture. Mix well.
5. Fold in oats and apricots.
6. Put in muffin tins (or reusable cups, see below!) and bake for 20 minutes.

(Please excuse the sideways photograph. It refuses to upload appropriately.)

What do you do for breakfast? I'd love to try YOUR recipes!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Lessons Learned

If you follow my blog, you're familiar with my #52in52 project. As a grad student, I thought that sounded like an awesome way to start my first year as a professional. I started in January, and figured it would take me through December. Unfortunately, on this last day of September, I completed my project. I've learned a LOT this year, and I've had lots of questions about what I read, and I'd like to share what I've learned. Because I work in education, I rarely track my years from January - December (just look at my memory books with Brandon - they go September - August, like the school year), so we'll work our way through chronologically.

January
I read 17 books in January. (That's either a sign that it's a down-time at work, OR that I spent a lot of time commuting.) I read about struggles and I learned that you're not alone. Whether you are a corporate hot-shot thrown into motherhood when your best friend dies (The Accidental Mother, Rowan Coleman) or struggling because of new surroundings (The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, Dinaw Mengestu), you will never be alone.
I read about choices and I learned that you can overcome anything. Whether it's where you left your brother as a child (Sarah's Key, Tatiana de Rosnay) or a relationship that you didn't act on years ago (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford), there are reasons that we make the choices we do.

(My guess is I'm missing some books in February.)
March
I read 5 books in March. I read about love and passion, and I learned that you can move on from the pain. Whether it's the pain of having to put your best friend to sleep (The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein) or the pain from being the happiest person on earth (Generosity, Richard Powers), we can move on.

April
I read 3 books in April. I read about trials, and I learned that everyone is being tested in their own way, and that we need to learn to appreciate one another more. Whether it's the trials of surviving every day in war, (Generation Kill, Evan Wright), surviving every day in life (Tell Them Who I Am, Elliott Liebow) or the test of a friendship (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See), we all are being challenged, and no one has it "easy." That was a good month for that lesson.

May
I read 3 books in May, and I learned that we have to be more positive in order to succeed in life. (How Full Is Your Bucket, Tom Rath)

June
I read 5 books in June, and I saw my learning as an extension of April and May. We have to be positive in order to overcome life tests. Life's test could involve our parents and their parenting style (The Glass Castle, Jeannette Wells), or not knowing who your son's father is (A Father's Affair, Karel Glastra Van Loon), positivity is key in life.

July
I read 4 books in July. I learned that there are some books I have no desire to finish (but I did - The Things That Matter, Edward Mendelson), and that you shouldn't read sad books on the CTA, unless you want to look crazy (Atonement, Ian McEwan).

August
I read 9 books in August. I learned a great deal about many things (Approaching the Qu'ran, Anthony Michael Sells and Three Cups of Deceit, Jon Krakauer), and re-visited a high-school recommended (but not read) reading (The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros).

September
I finished my challenge with books in September. I laughed (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie), I cried (sobbed - The Meaning of Matthew, Judy Shepard) and I took a look at a fellow (but complex) book lover (The Book Thief, Markus Zusak).

Someone asked my favorite. I can't pick just one - and I think that's proved by what I've learned. I wouldn't give this knowledge up for anything, but I can narrow it down.
1 - The Meaning of Matthew, Judy Shepard
2 - Three Weeks With My Brother, Nicholas Sparks
3 - Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson
4 - The Glass Castle, Jeannette Wells
5 - The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

What have you read this year?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Smile :)

My GoogleReader is full of STUFF. I won't say junk, as I generally take the time to read almost every article that pops up, but it is FULL. I have some humorous daily cartoons, news from the places I call or have ever called home, some family that I follow, friends from all of my worlds, and then a number of student affairs bloggers. Becca, who I follow on Twitter, posted (in the midst of the busy season) 20 things that make her smile, and it inspired me.

What makes you smile?

Ellie, my 4-year-old lab puppy

A freshly lit candle

Waterfalls

A good cup of coffee

The changing of the leaves

Ripe tomatoes

The lake (any lake will do, really)

Chicago's skyline, day or night

My mother

The first snowfall of the season

Daffodils

A full cookie jar

Completing a good book

The mountains

Spiced Apple Cider

Laughter, especially from babies or small children

The smell of the Sound

Wearing jeans and a hoodie

A fire in the fireplace

That smell that comes with the change of seasons



Waking up early enough to walk across the street and see the sunrise over the lake <3

II'd love to hear what makes you smile...please share :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Menu!

Brandon and I normally do the grocery shopping on Sunday, and get enough to last us about 2 weeks. This week Brandon had a football draft, and we had company for dinner. I also have today off, so I'm treating it as my Sunday. Woke up (earlier than I would have liked), lounged around after a long walk with the dog, drank my coffee, and now I'm getting ready for my grocery shopping trip (by myself, since Brandon works today). This week, I re-read some starred recipes from my Google Reader, and solicited input from some friends. Interested in what we'll be making? Read on:

1. Carbonara (from our favorite issue of Food Network magazine, the Italian issue)
2. Pot Pie (from Food Network magazine)
3. Chicken Chimichangs (from www.blog-chef.net)
4. Stuffed Green Peppers (from www.blog-chef.net)
5. Tomato Chicken Towers (from www.betterthanabox.org)
6. Chicken Pesto Sandwiches (from www.betterthanabox.org)
7. Tomato Goat Cheese Polenta (from Kate, a friend from high school)
8. Aloo Gobi (from my uncle Kirk)
9. Vegetarian Korma (from a good friend, Jenelle)
10. Fancy Chicken Salad (from www.simplyrecipes.com)
11. Cherry Tomato Orzo Salad (from www.simplyrecipes.com)
12. Potato Roast (from www.smittenkitchen.com)
13. Chicken Muamba (from a colleague, Lynne)
14. Teriyaki Steak (modified version of a suggestion from a coworker, Erin)
15. Pasta Italiana (from a colleague, Tanya)

I'm super excited about new recipes - we'll see how Brandon reacts to many of the no meat meals :) Thanks for the suggestions, friends! Now - off to the grocery store!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

#52in52

So, in January, I decided to tackle #52in52, reading 52 books in 52 weeks. Many people said WOAH that's a lot of books. I, however, am almost done, and I still have 18 weeks. I'm on my last 6 books - here's what I've read, in the order (mostly) I read it:
1. Tell Them Who I am (Elliot Liebow)
2. The Postcard Killers (James Patterson)
3. Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout)
4. Night (Elie Wiesel)
5. The Accidental Mother (Rowan Coleman)
6. The Prophet of Yonwood (Jeanne DuPrau)
7. Lock and Key (Sarah Dessen)
8. The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears (Dinaw Mengestu)
9. Life, the Universe and Everything (Douglas Adams)
10. Along for the Ride (Sarah Dessen)
11. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Douglas Adams)
12. The Quickie (James Patterson)
13. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
14. The Devil in the White City (Erik Larson)
15. Sarah's Key (Tatiana de Rosnay)
16. Her (Cherry Muhanji)
17. So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish (Douglas Adams)
18. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Jamie Ford)
19. Mostly Harmless (Douglas Adams)
20. The Bone Collector (Jeffrey Deaver)
21. Three Cups of Tea (Greg Mortenson)
22. The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein)
23. Generosity (Richard Powers)
24. A Vintage Affair (Isabel Wolff)
25. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Lisa See)
26. Generation Kill (Evan Wright)
27. The Corrections (Jonathan Franzen)
28. How Full Is Your Bucket? (Tom Rath)
29. Resistance (Owen Sheers)
30. A Father's Affair (Karel Glastra Van Loon)
31. Bloody Jack (L.A. Meyer)
32. Quarterlife Crisis (Alexandra Robbins)
33. The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barberry)
34. The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)
35. The Things That Matter: What Seven Classic Novels Have to Say about the Stages of Life (Edward Mendelson)
36. Rising Sun (Michael Crichton)
37. Atonement (Ian McEwan)
38. The Stone Monkey (Jeffrey Deaver)
39. Approaching the Qur'an (Michael Anthony Sells)
40. The Coffin Dance (Jeffrey Deaver)
41. Altar of Eden (James Rollins)
42. The House on Mango Street (Sandra Cisneros)
43. BoneMan's Daughter (Ted Dekker)
44. Three Cups of Deceit (Jon Krakauer)
45. Without Remore (Tom Clancy)
46. Three Weeks with My Brother (Nicholas Sparks)

My top favorites were:
1. Sarah's Key
2. Along for the Ride
3. Three Weeks with My Brother
4. The Glass Castle

I have a lot of books that I own in one way or another that I still haven't read. By a lot...I mean over 180 e-books, and exactly 79 hard/paperback books. I've had lots of suggestions, so I'm excited to see the next 6 books (at least) and to keep updating through the year. What's your favorite book that you've read this year?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The 10 rules of owning a dog

Are you thinking about getting a dog? Do you currently own a dog, live in a big city, and just need a laugh this morning? Then, by all means, read on.

I've lived in the city for over a year now (which also means I've been an #sapro for over a year now!), and I've had my dog for almost 4 years. I'm by no means the dog whisperer (if I was, would my dog eat video game cases and Big Red gum? Probably not,) but I have quite a wealth of experience on dogs. Half of this stems from walking the dog, the other from living with the dog... This is what I've learned, from that experience:

1. As a dog owner, you are not allowed to introduce yourself to other dog owners, only your dog. (ex: This is Ellie.)
2. After you've introduced your dog, you have to talk about the dog in third person (ex: Ellie did this last night.)
3. When someone says "Oh, your dog is SO SO cute," the appropriate follow-up response is "Thank you, yours is SO adorable." If, like me, you fail to recognize the adorable-ness of their dog, an awkward silence will ensue, leaving the two humans to stare at each others feet while the dogs make out.
4. ALWAYS REMEMBER: People who don't own dogs, but walk at 6:00 in the morning like you do, know more about dogs than you do. If you don't remember this, you may end up in an argument about how to train your dog on the corner of Estes & Sheridan at 6:30, and risk being late for work.
5. When you walk your dog, you will always have to explain something. (ex: I have a Gentle Leader and everyone thinks its a muzzle. Nope, my 40 pound dog just can pull my arm out of it's socket and at 6:00 in the morning, I'm not interested in that.)
6. You have to be willing to get up at ALL hours of the night for your dog; if you are not willing to do this, other dog owners will probably judge you. (ex: Ellie gets up at 3 am - so do humans. Ellie has a lot of energy, so humans get up at 5:45 to walk her, hoping she'll stop eating afore mentioned video games and Big Red gum.)
7. You will spend more money on your dog than you will spend on yourself. Dog toys, especially for a dog who can destroy anything, are more expensive than some toys for children, and you probably need to buy them 10x as often.
8. Your dog will most likely end up taking over your life, especially if you don't have children. (Ex: I can't come to your wedding because I can't find a) friends to stay with b) a dog-friendly hotel or c) anyone to dog-sit. Note: this excuse does not work with children.)
9. MYTH BUSTER: Getting a dog is NOT comparable to having a child, for many reasons. a) You don't give birth to it. b) Feeding it is a LOT easier. c) You can't leave a child at home, all alone, all day. and d) You have to care for it for the rest of it's life - there never comes a point where the dog can feed itself, take itself out, or clean up after itself.
10. You should love your dog, unconditionally, no matter what. If you aren't prepared for that, maybe now is NOT the best time to get a dog. I still love my dog, regardless of what she has eaten, and the countless times she has injured herself (even by just walking)...and I'm still (4 years later) trying to figure out how to make her stop chewing everything in sight.

My dog is a chewer, and very accident-prone, yes, but...isn't she cute?

Monday, August 15, 2011

New year!

My friend Tanya posted this week about her list of things she does to get prepared for the school year, and it got me thinking. I already had the mani-pedi last week (and I'll get another one either pre- or post- homecoming), I got the hair cut:

I've set goals (both personal and work related) for the academic year, and I've got that one resolution (one that I have Ryan to thank,) but what am I missing?

...and then I realized that it's time to update my iPod. I try and update my iPod with the seasons. Of course, around holiday time I'll upload my holiday music, but this year I'm looking for suggestions. What songs get you going on that 19th-work-day-in-a-row? What is that ONE go to song for you on that tough Monday morning, or Friday afternoon? Let me know - I'll be updating this weekend in preparation for the first day of classes (one week from today!)

Feel free to also share what you do to prepare for your new academic year.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

#brandonbirthdayextravaganza - The Last Day!

We woke up bright and early Sunday morning (what is it with these early mornings?) and headed to BRUNCH. I love the brunch place we went to. Brandon and I are not huge breakfast eaters, but we devour our food at this place. Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of the place, or the food, but you MUST check it out. It's called Dodo and is located sort of in the meat packing district (at least, that's what it feels like.) Regardless...Delicious.

We then headed to the Chicago History Museum. Brandon's dad is a big history buff, and we knew he'd love it, PLUS we got in for free, and you can't beat that.
I love the stupid photos that museums let you take. I loved this section of the exhibit.
Brandon and his Dad were tired - time to hitch a ride...in a swan?
Like father, like son.
After the museum, we headed home and Jan & Steve had to head back to Grand Rapids. We'll get to see them this upcoming weekend when we head back to Michigan for two days.

As for work, the craziness has started, so if I don't blog from now until October, you'll know why...
8/15 - 8/16 Orientation
8/17 - 8/21 Welcome Week
8/22 First Day of Class
8/24 Student Involvement Fair
8/27 Finance Board Special Hearing
9/10 Fresh in the Ciity (a Big Band performance)
9/17 Finance Board Hearing
9/19 - 9/24 Homecoming
9/25 First of our Red Wings Season Tickets games!
9/28 My birthday
10/2 SGA Retreat
I hope you enjoy the end of your August, and if it's your busy season, get ready - it'll be fun!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

#brandonbirthdayextravaganza - Saturday!

Even though he had the present, and his birthday had passed, the celebration continued! We got up BRIGHT and early on Saturday and headed to the Chicago Architectural River Tour. We'd never done it, but heard it was fantastic - and we loved it! A few of my favorite photos...
 I love rounded/curved windows like this!
 Bridges fascinate me.
Ivy-covered buildings will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart.
I love waterfalls.

Following the boat tour, we headed down Michigan Avenue in search of breakfast. We grabbed breakfast and then introduced Brandon's parents to one of our favorite stores...
The LEGO store! The scene right now is the Chicago skyline which is SO cool. Of course, I couldn't let Brandon out of there without a birthday picture...

Following this, we headed up to Andersonville. We visited the Galleria and a number of other artsy stores, and then headed to meet R&Z up at the Evanston Arts Fair. We didn't get any art, but Brandon did eat the eyes off a Spongebob Squarepants Ice Cream...they were bubble gum. Oops?

Since we were in Evanston, we headed up to the Bahai Temple - the only one in North America - which is beautiful. if you've not visited, you should. It's breathtaking, and it's an educational moment, too.
That night, we went to the Grand Lux Cafe for dinner. We only had to wait 40 minutes (I remember the day when waiting 20 minutes in Kalamazoo for dinner seemed like an eternity; for Chicago, 40 minutes is nothing!), and we had delicious food!

Check back once more (tomorrow) for the final installment on the #brandonbirthdeayextravaganza. Who knows - September may see the #ryanandalexbirthdaybash...only Ziena will tell!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

#brandonbirthdayextravaganza - The Unveiling!

Sorry, friends (all five of you.) I got busy and sidetracked, but I know you are DYING to find out the gift. The unveiling is here!

As you know, I made sure that this weekend was amazing. However, I couldn't let him even guess (nor could I have this much hype) and hand him a tiny gift (which is kind of what it was.) So I did a few things. 1) I put it in this HUGE box (the box is taller than I am. I'm 5'1") and 2) I kept telling him "it's large. It's HUGE, honey.

My boss, Erin, is super creative (she'll tell you she isn't, but look at the cover of our new Student Org Handbook and you'll know otherwise,) so she decorated the outside. It said HAPPY BIRTHDAY Brandon!!!!! To get it home from work, however, we had to stick it out the window. We drove on Lakeshore that way.
He just WENT for it. Then he found out that the marker had seeped through - super funny! Also, the "box" was actually 6 small boxes taped together.
It's...a hockey stick?
Yep - it's a hockey stick. HOWEVER, it also signifies that we are now Red Wings Season Ticket Holders. Our games:
9/25 vs. Chicago Blackhawks
10/7 vs. Ottawa Senators
10/28 vs. San Jose Sharks
11/11 vs. Edmonton Oilers
12/10 vs. Winnipeg Jets
1/23 vs. St. Louis Blues
2/12 vs. Philadelphia Flyers
2/25 vs. Colorado Avalanche
3/2 vs. Minnesota Wild
3/19 vs. Washington Capitals

We both are super excited - and Brandon spent the rest of the evening being excited. (Hey Detroit friends...get ready to see us a TON over the next year!) We followed up the unveiling with dinner at a cute little Tapas restaurant in Wrigleyville called Twist. If you haven't been there, GO (or come visit and we'll take you.) It's a twist on the typical tapas you will order, but we loved it. My favorites are the Bacon Wrapped Dates, the Tilapia, and the Italian Sausage - but they ALL were DELICIOUS!

Monday, August 8, 2011

#brandonbirthdayextravaganza - Actual Birthday Dinner

Short post for a short day -

Brandon's actual birthday is August 4; on Thursday, we went to dinner at a restaurant that we probably would not have found were it not for eRewards and Restaurant.com...(a background...)

Brandon and I both participate in eRewards surveys. He gets awesome prizes (like Gamestop gift cards and Restaurant.com gift certificates) while I stopped doing surveys because my prizes were so dreadful (a girl can only have so many magazine subscriptions.) He decided to cash one in for Restaurant.com to help us learn more about Chicago. We received a $25 coupon (have to spent $35) to the Blue Elephant. We walked right past it, and would have kept walking had I not known the street address.

It was SUPER tiny inside, but we dove right in. We started with the appetizer platter...
We loved everything except the Tofu. That was a little weird. 
I went basic with Pad Thai (you can never go wrong, AND my chiropractor recommended it.) 

Brandon was a little more out of his element and daring with the Spicy Udon Noodles with Crunchy Chicken. Super good!
We're HUGE desert people, so we couldn't pass up trying what we thought was a new desert. Little did we know...
If you remember the first time we dined out with Ziena and Ryan Miller, Ziena had a weird Marshmallow type ice cream... It's known as "Mochi" and that's what we (accidentally) ordered.  Brandon had the Mango,
But I was adventurous with the Green Tea. They were good - but they do have a texture issue.
We then walked home and had to get ready for his parents (and the unveiling...!) Check back tomorrow for the unveiling!

ReverbBroads11 - College Life

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| Wednesday, December 21, 2011
If you haven't heard that I'm blogging with #ReverbBroads11, you may be a little behind my life story. Today's prompt: If you could return to college, what would you major in and why?


I pretty much planned my life out from the day I was born. That may sound like an exaggeration, but I'm certain my mother would agree. (Anyone in my regular life DISAGREE with this statement?) Therefore, the day that I realized that my Public Relations Bachelor's degree was not for me (that date was August 18, 2006) was a pretty dreadful day. I completed the internship, without telling Beverly that I wasn't going to be going into the field, and came back to Kalamazoo, MI, feeling kind of in trouble.

I did other internships and ended up teaching a First Year Seminar course (like the world knew how my stars would align in December of 2011) and doing an internship in LGBT Student Services. Those two things led me on my path to my Master's in Higher Education Student Affairs Leadership, so I'm not sure I would have changed my major, because I know my PR experience is what got me my Graduate Assistantship in the College of Aviation. My English minor is what kept my sanity (and still does, to this day.)

I would have changed my Social Work minor. I added it to give me an additional semester in college, as I wasn't sure I wanted to start a grad program in January, and I knew I'd need to do that if I graduated in December. If I could go back, I would have minored in a language. I took French in high school (honestly, for my chosen career path and life, it was a waste.) But, if I was smart, I would have taken Spanish.

Currently, I'm trying to find someone in the Chicago area that is interested in taking Spanish with me. I don't want to take it alone, but I think it would be the best thing for me as far as my career path goes.

Are you wondering why I remember August 18, 2006? That's the day that Snakes on a Plane came out. Want to know more? Just ask. It's a...spectacular story.
And no, I've never seen the movie.

#reverbBroads11 - Flashback Photography

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| Monday, December 19, 2011
This is a REALLY old photograph of me. It was taken with an old friend in Canada my second year of college. I don't use it much anymore, but it's probably my favorite photo of me. It captures me, a little bit in my essence. This is probably one of the last photographs I've taken without Brandon.

Talkative
I'm mid-sentence in this picture. I couldn't tell you what I was talking about, but it was a good story. Don't worry, they all are. ;-)
Happy
I'm also laughing. As I mentioned in many posts, laughter is the most important part of life, and it's ridiculous to spend too much time down or sad.
Wannabe Fashionista
I don't know a lot about fashion, but I attempt to pretend I do. I have lots of great shoes, many pairs of glasses, and tons of jewelry. Additionally, the photo is in black and white, and that makes you a little more classy, right?
Friendly & Welcoming
That night, I met a bunch of my friend's friends and, while I didn't know them before that night, we had a great time. I am not in touch with many of them, but I do what I can to get to know everyone and make sure everyone is enjoying themselves.

What would your self portrait say about you?

If you haven't heard, I'm blogging daily through December with #ReverbBroads11. Today's prompt: Self-portrait: Post a picture of you that you like, write about yourself, post a video - what do you want your self-portrait to say about you?

#ReverbBroads11 - Let's meet!

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| Sunday, December 18, 2011
If you haven't heard, I'm blogging daily with other #ReverbBroads11 through the month of December. Today's prompt: Who would you most like to meet and why?


I am not going to give you just one person, but I'm going to try to structure this in a way that makes sense. At least, it will make sense to me. I participated in (and exceeded) the #52in52 project this year, which guides a lot of this, but this is also a question that I've been asked for years, and some of those answers still exist.

Authors
I'm a bookworm. During college, I lost my love for reading (I think I just lost the time, honestly) but I re-discovered it when I moved to Chicago, thankfully. Through my #52in52 project, these are the authors I'd love to meet:
Greg Mortenson
His book truly inspired me. I read it on the recommendation of my friend, Kate, and fell in love. I did read, later, Three Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakauer, but I still would love to meet Greg. If I did meet him, I probably wouldn't even mention Three Cups of Deceit, as Greg's story is truly a wonderful one. If you haven't read this, please pick up a copy of Three Cups of Tea.
Judy Shepard
I knew that I would cry when I read this story, but I decided to take it with me on the train, anyway. I became "that girl" the one that you try not to stare at as she is sitting there, by herself, sobbing in public, and it was okay. Judy and the Shepard family have gone through so many challenges, but she continues to stand for what she believes in, and to never be a silent bystander.
Additionally, I've always said I want to meet Shakespeare, and I still stand by that. I think it would be quite the dinner conversation. In one of my English courses in college, I was told that my interpretation of some of his sonnet's was incorrect. I would probably ask him about those, videotape the conversation, and then go and find her to prove that I'm right. (I'm stubborn, obviously.)

Musical Group
I went through a period of time in high school when I thought I loved punk rock, and I'm glad that I grew out of that, because I never would have been able to see the Indigo Girls live. While I have seen them live, a few times, I would love to sit down and have a beer with them. They have been together forever, and now that Amy is doing some individual performing on the side, I'd love to know how that is working, and if that has any negative effects on them as a duo. Having performed that long with one person, I wonder if they are still good friends, and how they are still coming up with new music.
I find them fascinating, and I'm sure most of my questions for them would catch them off guard, but I imagine that we would be great friends, after they could get over my obsession :)

Down to Earth
There are many famous people I'd love to meet (Ellen, Rosie, The Obama family & The Clinton's, to name a few) and many famous people that I hope I never meet. But if I could go back in time, with my family, I would love to meet my grandmother and my Papa when they were college-aged. I don't remember my grandfather very much, but I think that would be an excellent time to sit down with them and pick their brains about life, love and happiness.

#ReverbBroads11: Least Favorite

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| Saturday, December 17, 2011
For those of you who don't know, I'm attempting to blog once daily with #ReverbBroads11, following a daily prompt schedule. Today's prompt: Instead of a list of your favorite things, write a list of your least favorite things, e.g. Worst book you ever finished, the color you hate, bad songs, bad romances, bad recipes.

This is not a hard post to write, however, I do feel a little guilty about some of these things. If you like these things (foods, recipes, songs, actors, etc.) please don't feel that you have to hide it from me. In fact, you can share why you like it with me - especially with food. I'm willing to try to like things, I promise. That being said...

1) Being called Mr. Garrett is the worst. My first name is JUST Alex. So, when most people see "Alex Garrett" they feel the need to respond to Mr. Garrett. All I will say on this is: If you are unsure of the gender of the individual you are addressing, the Mr., Ms., & Mrs. can be eliminated.

2) Keanu Reeves is dreadful. I hadn't thought about him until yesterday, when we ended up talking about The Matrix at lunch, but I cannot stand him. I just looked him up on IMDB and I am shocked to see that he has movies and all sorts of things through 2013. Find me a movie where he was good, please.

3) I hate being disrespected. This applies to life, but most of my examples are work related. When students ask me one thing, but decide my answer is either wrong or they don't like it, so they go to my co-worker to get (hopefully) a different answer, I die a little inside. I do everything I can to make the Earth move for my students, but these little disrespectful acts get me down. Additionally, I hate when I'm talking to some bill payer (about changing service, additional fees that randomly showed up, etc.) and I'm not getting anywhere, when I give the phone to Brandon and he accomplishes it in less than 10 minutes.

4) I don't want to know where my food came from. I am pretty sure I would be a vegetarian if I lived alone and had different hours at work. I don't want to know that Blue Cheese is molded for a few months, right before I shove that spicy sandwich in my mouth. I don't want to know the process for getting that steak, that pork, or the chicken onto my kitchen table. If I think about it long enough, I won't be able to eat it.

5) Christmas music is classic. Don't mess it up by making it Country, or Rock. If you are going to cover a traditional holiday song, please cover it appropriately. And sing Deck the Hall, no S.

6) I love giving my opinion. But if you ask for it, and don't really want it, that's annoying. Please only ask for input if you need it, not just to justify your own decision making, or to make you look better. Additionally, that's all it is. My opinion. We all are entitled to have one, and most of the time, your opinion cannot be wrong, so please don't tell me that it is.

What are your least favorite things?

#ReverbBroads11: Pet Peeves

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If you haven't heard, I'm blogging with a group of awesome people, following #ReverbBroads11 and posting with a prompt a day through December. Today's prompt: What are your biggest pet peeves?  

My sophomore year in high school, we had to give a speech on this very topic. I'm pretty sure I got mocked for what I did it on, but it still stands as one of my pet peeves. As I was growing up, my parents kind of let me be free to make my own choices (leading to mistakes), but were of course there to help me pick myself back up. Something that irritates me is over-protective (& do-everything-for-you) parents. You can call them helicopter parents (who really are just very concerned about their child, which is appropriate), or whatever else you want to call them, but I've met so many people who don't have basic life skills (laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, etc.) because their parents have planned, structured, and done their whole life for them. I don't have children, and my thought on this may change, but it just bugs me.

In addition, (this shouldn't come as a surprise) grammar errors irritate me. In re-reading some of my OWN blog posts from the past, while writing on my iPad, I have found some and that is very frustrating. Spell check and grammar checks exist for some reason, so at least use that.

I also cringe at bad pet-owners. I'm not the exemplary pet owner, and I know that, but basic pet training (generally applying this to dogs) is not that complicated, and is necessary.

It also drives me crazy when we put ourselves down, for whatever reason. Whether we are fat, ugly, our hair sucks, our clothes are stupid, or we are stupid, I can't stand to hear those around me put themselves down. We all live a rough life, and we need to remember that we are who we are for a reason. On that note, say 1 nice thing to someone a day and I promise you'll feel tons better.

What are your pet peeves?

#ReverbBroads11 - All Caught up with New Flavors

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| Thursday, December 15, 2011
I really began to challenge myself in cooking this year. Sometimes this is hard, because I get home at 7:00 after a super busy and long day and the last thing I want to do is chop, dice, sizzle, and stir. But, with Brandon's assistance, we've made some pretty awesome discoveries.

- We tried MANGO (fresh, not a syrup) for the first time. I loved it, but it took 3 mangoes before I figured out how to cut it. I'm not sure if I could even do it again without watching the YouTube video of how to cut a Mango. I never even asked Brandon if he liked it, because I know it's a keeper.
- I started using Dill Weed (a spice, whether or not Brandon believes me.) I'm still not sure it actually does anything, but I've used it.
- We tried polenta, and may or may not have hated it. It is not making a return to our house.
- I had Mochi and (the second time around) loved it. See Brandon's Birthday Extravaganza for pictures.
- B and I ate at Chick Fil A for the first time and while I loved the TASTE I've recently decided I don't know how much I can support the CHAIN. (Want to know more? Just ask!)

What new flavors have you tried this year?

If you haven't heard, I'm blogging with #ReverbBroads11 and a prompt a day through the month of December. Today's prompt: Did you taste any new flavors this year? Did you love or hate them or something in between? Will you incorporate these new flavors into your life?  

#ReverbBroads11 - Volunteering

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Woah - Nothing can ever prepare you to take a week off of work (even during finals week). I thought I'd be all ready to stay up to date on #ReverbBroads when I got back from vacation, but I've spent some quality time with my couch and my bed. I've been exhausted, which I guess happens when you have to respond to 240+ emails.

I don't volunteer, and I don't know why. I did some volunteer work in high school, and I worked at my Grandma's work for awhile, too, but once I got to college I never could seem to get back in the groove of volunteering, but I want to.

I really want to do something in my life to give back to the community, like volunteering at a homeless shelter, a women's shelter, or working with kids, but I'm not sure how to get involved. If you are in the Chicago area - do you volunteer? Where, and how often? If you don't currently volunteer, do you know of places that could use volunteers?

The biggest question is why haven't I, and there are a few reasons. One reason is time - I'm still working on balancing my personal life and my work schedule (even after a year and a half in my job). Going along with this, I'm sometimes not willing to give up my Saturday or Sunday morning sleep, which is something that has to change. Finally, I'm not always comfortable going outside of my comfort zone, and I don't know many people in the Chicago area that volunteer, so I can't just tag along with a friend or colleague. I'm hoping I can find somewhere near either work or home in the next year that I can help out at.

If you haven't heard, I'm participating in #ReverbBroads11 with a daily blog prompt through December. For today, Is volunteering something you do regularly? If yes where do you volunteer? If not, why not?

#ReverbBroads11 - 3 Best

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On Twitter, I periodically (very rarely, actually) take part in #3best. Some days, it's hard to find 3 things that went right in a day, but I manage. This prompt, however is a lot harder. I don't like to brag, and in my constant comparison of myself to others, I don't think I'm better at much, at least not in comparison. I contemplated not doing this post, but I'm hopeful I can get every post this month (even if they are late.) But, a few days late, here we go:

1) I'm a really fast reader. I managed to read 52 books in the first 40 or so weeks this year. I obtain most of the information, too. In 3rd grade, I checked a book out for silent reading hour and returned it to the library at the end of the hour. My teacher asked why I didn't like the book - she had recommended it. I told her I loved it, and she didn't believe I had finished that quickly, so she gave me a quiz (which I aced.) 
2) I'm an excellent gift giver. Honestly, I don't have a very good memory (this makes starting a new job tricky, especially when meeting students) but I latch on when people talk about what they have always wanted (like the Back to the Future trilogy on VHS), or when they talk about things they need, or had as a child that they miss (like a Wood Engraver). I love giving gifts, but don't really like receiving them, because I get nervous (something I cannot explain.)
3) I won't go as far as saying I'm an excellent writer (again, in comparison, I couldn't finish my NaNoWriMo novel) but I'm a fabulous proofreader. Spelling, punctuation, spacing, all of it. I attribute that to my two years as my high school yearbook editor, and my high school English teacher. It's an awesome skill, but it also then irritates me when I get professional publications, emails or letters that are incorrect. I'm always willing to read things through, if you'd like.


If you haven't heard, I'm participating in #ReverbBroads11, a post a day through the month of December. Today's prompt: What are three things you are better at than most people?

12/9/2011 #ReverbBroads11 - Children's Book

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When I was younger, I had a library. Sounds cute, right? Well, it was a little obsessive. You had to check the books out, and I'm sure I'd try to fine you if you returned it late. My parents still have most of them, but I've slowly taken the books back, especially my favorites. I loved The American Girl, The Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys so much, but in re-thinking, here are my favorites.

1) Cap'n O.G. Read More - I still can quote this book. This cat has such an appetite for books, and whenever my own cat "comes back" from somewhere in the house, I serenade Brandon with the details of this cat and his love for reading.

2) The Very Hungry Caterpillar - what is not to love about this colorful, fun, learning book?
3) I Have To Go - this book is about the need to pee. Not necessarily a potty training book, but it was a staple growing up, especially on road trips. I have what a friend of mine refers to as a hummingbird bladder, so this was always enjoyable, because it was generally true.

4) Love You Forever - My dad was military, and I remember (this could be a made up memory) reading this book, about the love from parents to children, and thinking that my dad could hear me and knew that was true, no matter where he was.
5) In the Night Kitchen - I remember loving this book. I still have it, even if it is inappropriate with a naked child. The illustrations are brilliant, and I still enjoy this classic.

6) Stand Back Said the Elephant - My dad would do the greatest voices to books. Since he was gone a lot, he made me a tape recording of him reading a number of my favorites. This one always had the best voices, and was also very, very silly.
7) Paper Bag Princess - My mom always read this tale to me. It was ridiculous, but all I remember was loving the story and the illustrations. I don't own this any,ore, so I may need to put it on a wish list (or just buy it for myself.)

8) the Indian in the Cupboard - I recently bought this movie from a $5.00 bin and it was just as amazing I remember. I did a lot of dress up and pretend play, and I remember incorporating a magical cabinet into my play time, too.
9) The Egypt Game - A book that I read later in my childhood, but one that I loved. I still own this, and actually bought her second novel (The Gypsy Game) recently. Of course, I read it a lot faster, but I still loved it. The friendship between Melanie and April was something that I longed for, as I remember struggling to have that long lasting friendship, especially considering how often I moved schools during elementary school.

I normally hate to leave things at such an awkward number, but those are my nine favorites. Even if you are not participating in #ReverbBroads11, I hope you share your favorites with me.


If you haven't heard, I'm participating (but can't seem to remember to actually PUBLISH the posts) in #ReverbBroads11, a daily prompt through December. Today's prompt: What was your favorite children's book?

#ReverbBroads11: Guilty (Updated)

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| Monday, December 12, 2011
Woah. I told a co-worker today that I loved #ReverbBroads because it kept me thinking. However, I was not ready for today's prompt. Then, I wrote this prompt last night about a good beer and my favorite bar (The Red Line Tap. They allow dogs - what else do you need to know?) But as I sat on the train this morning, I smelled (a good smell, for once) my favorite, most secret guilty pleasure. I'm sure Brandon doesn't even know this (although he will now, because I share every one of my blog posts with him.)

I have lots of guilty pleasures. Bad music (Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga), Bad TV shows (Glee because of my friend Derik Nelson,) a good beer over a run on the treadmill, coffee (but I gave it up for my morning protein shakes), family time, cupcakes (MORE, preferably) and I'm sure the list goes on.

Honestly, I can't live without listening to Mom Jeans or My New Christmas Sweater, but mostly, my guilty pleasure is chocolate & salt. It started last year. For those of you who don't know, Brandon worked at GameStop part-ish time last year. Most nights, I'd come home and turn on a movie, just to keep noise in the house. One night, I made popcorn right when I got home, because I was hungry and I'd normally wait for dinner until Brandon got home. I ate some of it, but got distracted (most likely by work email) and it got cold. I didn't want to throw a whole bowl away, so I peeked in the fridge and saw chocolate syrup. I drizzled chocolate syrup on the popcorn and ate it. It may sound weird, but it was amazing.

Since then, I haven't been able to get enough of salt & chocolate. I've made salted hot chocolate (delicious. Apparently Starbucks sells it?), attempted salted chocolate cupcakes, tried out Mr. Goodbar again, and had another bowl of chocolate popcorn.

I could live without this guilty pleasure, as I don't have it that often. I'll probably have to make chocolate popcorn tonight, just so that Brandon can try it. I also think that, if I was not allowed to eat this, I'd come up with another guilty pleasure.

My iPad guilty pleasure? Fruit Ninja. If you haven't played it, you need to check it out.

If you haven't heard, I'm writing in December with a prompt-a-day. Today's prompt:  Name and explain the one guilty pleasure you can't live without.  ie: that cupcake shop you visit weekly, a book you repeatedly read to find solace in, etc).  Then explore the idea of how you would feel if you gave that thing up for a year.   

#ReverbBroads11: Alex & Kristin

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I asked Brandon "how am I like my mother" and he responded "How AREN'T you like your mama?" Unsure of what that meant, I dug a little deep.

We both are McSassyPants101. I'm full of sass. (Honestly, I was never sure of how to use the word sass until I meant Julia D.) My mother is the SAME way. We have the same attitude, the same response to life, and the same sass. Translation: we have a comeback to life.

We're both short, fiesty and we can't stop talking. I've worked (not very hard) to alter my talkative gene, but it's really just brought out my contagious laugh gene. My mother introduced me (at a young age, I'm certain) to laughter. I incorporate this into my love, my laughter, my work with students, and my overall life.

The most important thing in life is to make sure you laugh once a day, and I don't think I could have taken a better piece of advice from the smartest, most lovely and strong woman I know.

#ReverbBroads11: Worst/Best Thing of Your Life

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I think I've mentioned this once or twice (or a thousand times,) but I just returned from an eight day vacation to visit my family. This sort of answers my whole Worst/Best moments...

I took 6 days off of work, at the end of the semester, at finals week, to visit my parents at a time that can be the busiest time for an office. I've also mentioned that I'm transitioning out of one job (Coordinator of Student Life) and into another job (Coordinator of Campus Life) that I'm super happy about. The best thing in my life right now is that. I'm in a job that trusts me, and values me. They trust me, in that they are willing to allow me this type of vacation (where I'm the only one who can do my job in my current job) and they also recognize my talents and are willing to transition me into a new job (while letting me design that job a little bit.) I've struggled in my career path, as we all have, but this is a place that values what I give back to the institution and is willing to use my strengths to help advance not only my department but the university as a whole.

On the other side, I'm really far away from my family. I live in Chicago, IL and my brother (16) and sister (19) live with my parents in Gardnerville, NV (outside of Reno). While my partner and I live 3.5 hours from his parents (Grand Rapids, MI) and 5 hours from his brother and wife (Eau Claire, WI), spending every holiday (Fathers Day, Mothers Day, Thanksgiving & Christmas) with them is not always what I need or want at the holidays. Yes, we could split and spend the holidays with our families (making the holidays super expensive, as I spent $400+ on my plane ticket home), but I want to spend the holidays together. Unfortunately, it seems that we can't split holidays until we get married (an action that may take a while, as we aren't interested at this time) and that makes the holidays hard. Holidays are a rough time, especially when both of my mother's parents have passed. The holidays are a time for everyone, but I wonder how others (married, committed, or otherwise) deal with the difficulty of dividing your lives between families.

If you haven't heard, I'm spending my December in a prompt-full-blog-month. Today's prompt: What is the best and/or worst thing about your life right now?

#reverbBroads11: My 12/8/2011 Oops

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If you didn't know, I spent the last week PLUS in Nevada. My parents and my baby siblings live there, so Brandon and I went to visit. He stayed for 4 days, I stayed for a lot longer. I spent my internet time on my life and my iPad. While I love the iPad, I realized that I either need to change blogs (blogspot is HTML and the iPad doesn't like that, apparently.) I realized (just now, on 12/12/11) that I missed a prompt, so here it is.

I tried to start blogging a long, long, long time ago, possibly back in the days of LiveJournal (does anyone even remember that?) This blog goes back to me taking my most recent job of the Coordinator of Student Life (a job that I am currently transitioning out of. I'll post about that in January.) I started blogging for our friends - to share my life with Brandon, in Chicago, with our Kalamazoo, MI friends; with our Grand Rapids, MI, Kalamazoo, MI, Battle Creek, MI, Cincinnati, OH & Gardnerville, NV family; and with anyone else interested. Since then, the Canada family has started watching, as have our Chicago friends.

I kept blogging because it challenged me. It challenged me to stay connected, and to keep taking photos and chronicling our life. Because of my blog, I have a photo for our Christmas cards this year. I've been able to keep in touch with Barb (and maybe other Canada "family") and I've been able to savor the memories.

What I haven't done is blog about work. I'm transitioning into a job that I think (hope?) I'm going to love, love, love. And I hope that, along with the ties to family and those far away, helps me stay blogging.

If you didn't know, I'm participating in an awesome blog-prompt-filled-December, #ReverbBroads11. Today's prompt: Why blog? Why do you or why do you like to blog (recognizing that these are not always the same thing)?

#reverbBroads11 - Laughter is the best medicine.

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| Thursday, December 8, 2011
"It's not my fault you're a boxer."


"Great. I have cheetah legs and I have to leave."

Using winter gloves to drink a mug of mint tea.

Standing in the middle of the room, discussing who the ring leader of the toys would be.

"Why are you hibernating? You're not a bear."

"You should go Tungle somewhere else."

With this post, a lot of people listed everyone (or everything) that makes them laugh. Comedians are hit or miss with me, as are stupid youtube videos, email forwards, and most television shows. However, there is one person who can always make me laugh (whether or not he is trying to.)



I always talk about being super, super serious, and it's kind of true. However, I find that I continually surround myself with amusing characters. The funniest person in my life is my partner, Brandon. He keeps me on my toes, he makes me happy, and he keeps me laughing. My life since I met Brandon, as summed up by the Indigo Girls, was "wide-eyed-laughing."



He doesn't always think he's funny, but he is. He shares cooking tips with me (like that you should wear snowboarding goggles when cutting onions,) and lets me know how overwhelming my Google calendar is (that looks like Skittles threw up on your calendar, honey).



He's also very young, and I think will always be, at heart. He loves stupid tee-shirts (this is the oldest I've ever been), toys (he gets a Toy Story toy a least once a year) and is an active video gamer. But on the side, he's the funniest person I've ever met.


Most of all, he can make me laugh, even when I'm having a super rough time in life. Our regular daily interactions involve amazing (while sometimes inappropriate) quotes (I feel like my armpit has to fart), serious questions (do you think the Energizer Bunny ever gets bored) and all around confusion (who is Erin Water and why does she have her own show?)



He regularly has interactions with the animals that keep me giggling for days (vamoos goes the dog.) but ultimately, he knows me the best. "You've gotta be sassy. You're a ninja!"



If I could take one thing from this funny man in my life, it would be this. "Easy going. It's like my life."

 
If you haven't heard, I'm participating in #ReverbBroads11 this month. Today's prompt: Who or what makes you laugh so hard you spit milk out of your nose and why?

#reverbBroads11 - Day 6: My top 10 Nevers

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| Tuesday, December 6, 2011
I asked a lot of people what was one thing they'd never do and got a lot of answers of things I've already done. Some of those include eating odd meats (I've eaten alligator,) learning how to fly an airplane (I will do this before I turn 60,) move in with someone without a commitment/wedding ring (I live with Brandon, my partner,) and the list continues. Needless to say, this was kind of difficult for me, as I don't want to limit myself on life. I'm aware that this list is random, but challenge yourself to have a non-random list of things you have sworn to never do, or that you know you will never do.

- Post sonograms of my child anywhere (my office, Facebook, etc.) If I ever have children, that will be shared with those very close to me, and no one else.

- Have two separate Twitter or Facebook accounts. As an educator, I think it's really important to practice good social media behavior, so I will never (again) do that.

- Work with children under the age of 17. I have spent my vacation working with my Mother, Father and Sister who run a musical theater program for children (sometimes adults, too.) My dad also works in a middle school, and as I write this, I'm sitting in his auditorium going crazy. I have such respect for educators that can work with this age group, as I know how challenging it is.

- I will never win a track competition, or place first in my age group in any running event. I've tried, and I'm okay with this. This doesn't mean that I won't participate, and I'll probably (at some point) enjoy it.

- I will never perform on a Broadway stage. Many people can (should?) say this, but for me, I'm pretty confident that my sister will, which is an awesome accomplishment for her, and gives me the ease to say that I won't.

- I will never live on the same property as my parents, or my partners parents. This may seem like a harsh statement, but I want to preserve the relationship between the grand parents and the grand children. I lived on the same property as my grandmother and it really strained the relationship. I won't change much about my parenting style based on my parents, but I will work hard to keep that a loving, caring relationship.

- I will never move back in with my parents. As I watch friends struggle, either getting divorced, losing a job, or not being able to find a job out of college, I see them move back in with their parents. If everything in my life changed tomorrow, I would just find other options. My parents are still raising my brother (16) and my sister (19), so that wouldn't be a reasonable option for me.

- I will never not have a Christmas tree. I could have the tiniest apartment ever, but I would always find room for a regular-sized tree. For as long as I can remember, Christmas has been a huge part of my life and I cannot imagine living through November and December without having holiday decorations.

- I will never stop my fight against inclusive language. I think its really important to use inclusive phrases (elimination of you guys, that's gay, etc.) and I really see the value in those conversations, with everyone from my family members to the students and colleagues I work with.

- I will never own a deep fryer. In college, my friends had them and used them constantly. Its not healthy and in my hopes to live a healthy lifestyle, I have banned this item from my kitchen (and hopefully from the kitchens of those around me.)

If you haven't heard, I'm participating in #ReverbBroads11 this month. Today's prompt: List 10 things you would never do.

#reverbBroads11 - Day 5: Personal Success

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| Monday, December 5, 2011
I have a confession to make: I'm not a very good blogger. However, when I went back through my blog from the last year, I found a lot of things that I said I would do and actually did this year, but there was one that goes back a LONG time.
I dated a good friend (who I'm not in touch with anymore) my sophomore year of high school. He was going skiing and asked me to come with him. I told him I was busy (I didn't use the "I'm washing my hair" excuse, although I should have) and said I'd go sometime. I never told him I'd never gone.
My best friend worked the slopes. A guy I dated junior year worked the slopes. Most of my friends skiied. But I always had excuses. And that's all they were. "I don't have the money. The time. The energy. The motivation."
Another confession: I. Was. Scared.
Brandon's uncle lives in British Columbia. He got re-married on top of a ski hill. Guess what I did? I learned how to ski. After eight years of saying "someday," I did it. And you know what? I was pretty good. No, I didn't leave the bunny hills. But I also didn't fall. Not once.
I can't tell you if I'll do it again, but knowing the family of Brandon, I probably will. It was one of the most intimidating, scary moments of my life, because I was worried of the ifs... What if... I fall? I'm not very good? I can't do it? I fail?
I stepped outside of my comfort zone, and I didn't fail. But, even if I had failed, what matters is that I took the opportunity to do something new, something different, and something that scared me. And that is wroth all the falls in the world.

If you haven't heard, I'm participating in #ReverbBroads11 this month. Today's prompt: What is the one thing you finally did this year that you always wanted or said you would do, but in your heart of hearts never thought you would actually do?

#reverbBroads11 - Day 4: Calista, Seth & Bette

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Part of the reason my posts are super behind right now is because I'm in the land of one cell phone provider (not the one I have) and limited internet access, also known as vacation for the holidays with my family. I've cast my movie, rather simply, and you'll notice that my family takes up the majority of my cast because, while they aren't close in proximity, they are the majority of my life.
My father (Rich) would be played by Tim Alan. He's funny, he does insane voices (sometimes while he should be serious,) and he has a wicked love for Christmas, which I assume Tim shares because, how can you not love Christmas if you've done at least 4 Christmas movies. Tim Alan would be married, happily, to Bette Midler, my mother (Kris). I really have one reason for this: attitude.
Their children would be Kristin Chenoweth (my younger sister, Brynn, the funniest, most talented woman I know,) Zack Efron (my younger brother, Braeden, an amazing dancer), and Calista Flockhart (me.) Calista is a blast from the past, I know, but her unique voice (I have a raspy voice. No, I'm not sick.) and her level of sass are a pretty good comparison to mine.
Calista Flockhart would be in a long-term relationship with Seth Rogen (Brandon, my partner of 5 years, a gentle soul with an amazing combination of wit and sarcasm.) Family wise, you would also meet Kathy Bates playing my grandmother (Collene), a woman who recently passed away but was devoted to child so much she was always a child at heart, but full of sass.
You would also meet my best friend (John), played by Rupert Everett (voice of Prince Charming in Shrek) and my good friend who is kind of like a brother (Matt), played by Eric McCormick (Will from Will and Grace.) Finally, you would meet my godfather (Jeff), an over the top, spectacular and wonderfully talented man, Jim Carey.
As evident by the cast, this would have to be a comedy. However, I think everyone in the cast would know it's a comedy except for Calista/me. As referenced in blog #1 for #reverbBroads11, I tend to take everything a little seriously. A line in the show, spoken by Bette/my mom when she first meets Seth/Brandon, would be "Alex is serious enough for all of us."
While I don't know the majority of the events, I can tell a few that would make an appearance. One would include my parents and Jim/Jeff as I decide to pursue a career as a band promoter - a decision that also meant leaving the theater behind. (I grew up in a musical theater family. My parents now run their own children's musical theater company in Nevada.)
Another would be a conversation I have when I decide to move in with Seth/Brandon, a conversation that would involve my sister and my mother. This was a conversation that I thought would be a big deal. (Boy, was I wrong!) This would lead to a scene where the whole family (all the players except Jeff) meet Seth/Brandon.
I would also have to include the difficult conversation I had with my mother about changing career paths - another conversation that didn't go as awfully as I had planned.
I don't know how my story ends - so I can't imagine all of the points that will be in there, but I can kind of imagine a storybook ending. I'm not traditional in many things (remember, I've been in a relationship for 5 years with no plans or desired plans for a wedding,) but I kind of think that will happen, and I see my moving ending, in a positive way with many ups and not many downs, at my wedding. A family reunion, full of lots and lots of laughter, is perfect for someone so family centered.
This is one blog post I may revisit every year, as I know that over the years many things will happen that will need to be included in my life.

If you haven't heard, I'm participating in #ReverbBroads11 this month. Today's prompt: In the movie version of your life, who would play you and the significant players in your life? What kind of movie is it, what would be the major plot points and how would it end?

#reverbBroads 11 - Day 3: Growing up? What's that?

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My favorite type of movies are Disney movies. I have more cartoons on my Netflix list than anything else. When I was a child, I would dance around my living room to the Mary Martin version of Peter Pan. (At one point, but I may or may not have tied my grandmother up, while she slept, with a hook.) Needless to say, I take the plan to remain a child very seriously.

However, as you get older, you are bound to do things to grow up. Four years ago, I moved in with my partner. We're still together, and this past year he moved to Chicago with me. He had no job, not even a job prospect, just a degree and our love. That's kind of an adult thing to do.
Obviously, I got a big-kid job last year. That's an adult thing. However, my career places me in college for the rest of my life, so I can't say that I'm really grown up.
I put myself through college, and in the last year I've attempted to begin paying off those loans. Again, adult.
Also, I finished my Christmas shopping by the beginning of December. However, most people ended up with toys, so I'm not sure how grown up this accomplishment is.
However, in the last year, I've gone to the zoo a million times. (It helps to have a free zoo.) I've fallen in love with the Disney store (again), and increased the number of Disney movies I own. I've embraced the idea of being a responsible young adult. I pay my bills, I go see my family, but I also enjoy life.
I hate cliche quotes, but you really only live once. I know we all have to grow up, but I also think we need to laugh and embrace our inner child more than once a year.
If you haven't heard, I'm participating in #ReverbBroads11 this month. Today's prompt: How did you become more of a grown-up this year? Or did you pull a Peter Pan and stubbornly remain childish?

#reverbbroads11 - Stupidest Moment Ever

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| Friday, December 2, 2011
As I've read other blogs about this, I think we all beat ourselves up a lot over the "stupid" things we've done. We all make mistakes. If we take chances, sometimes we are destined to embarrass ourselves, other times we are destined to fall on our face, but I don't think they are all "stupid" things.

I flew from Chicago to Nevada today, on day 1 of my 10 day vacation, and I spent a lot of time thinking about my stupidest moment of this year, or of my lifetime. One thing that I've been working on lately is not caring what other's think about me, or my choices in life, and doing what I want to do and making my own choices. That idea is where this story comes from.

I was in middle school. Middle school is a rough time for everyone, and I remember constantly struggling with being myself (an eccentric, crazy dresser) and fitting in (something that never did happen.) I sat with M regularly at lunch. She lived near me, so we also walked home together a lot. One day in gym class (the worst class ever assigned to middle school students), A (someone who I really wanted to like me,) told M she was gross, kicked at her and told her to "leave her alone."

I stood right there and watched it happen. It could have been any of us, really. Looking back, A was not very nice to anyone. In that moment, M needed a friend. Someone to console her, to tell her that it would get better. But in that moment, all I could do was know that if I stood up to A, she wouldn't like me.

News flash: She never did like me. We never were friends. Additionally, M and I were not friends after that point. We've lost touch, and I've never apologized. Who knows if she remembers this, but to this day, I do what I can to stand up for others and work really hard to ignore what others think, so that I don't replicate such a stupid mistake.

If, somehow, M does read this, I want you to know that I'm sorry. I never expect complete forgiveness, but I hope you were able to find support and comfort in your time of need.

If you didn't know, I'm blogging with the #ReverbBroads11. Today's prompt: What is the stupidest thing you've done this year? What about your whole life?

#reverbbroads11: Dear Alex

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| Thursday, December 1, 2011
Dear 17-year-old-Alex,

Slow down. Please.

I have to admit, I'm super proud of you. You're one class away from your Associate's degree, and you haven't even graduated high school yet. Admittedly, this is quite an accomplishment, but you have to slow down. You are missing out on your life.

Give your brother and sister a break. They love you, and they just want to be friends with you. Soon, you're going to miss them. Spend some time with them; go to the movies, to a concert, just drive around. They are young (and I'm sure that can be annoying) but you will never get that time back.

Give mom and dad a break, too. Try to bite your tongue once in awhile because, just maybe, they are right. They have bent over backwards to give you everything you want and have never asked for anything back. You are about to get just what you asked for, but then things will change.

Hang out with your grandma. Since she got sick, your relationship with her has been strained. That's expected when you take on so much and it feels more like a responsibility then a grandma-granddaughter relationship. You have no clue how much you will miss her. A year later, you still dial her phone number, only to remember there isn't a comforting voice over that line, there aren't any more ridiculous hats coming, and there is no one there to just listen when you need it. Cherish what little time you have there.

Give him up. I know, right now, you think he's your world, but he isn't. You will move on, and you will find one of the most kind-hearted, caring and gentle men out there. I can't tell you how that turns out, but, for your sake, just let him go.

I know this seems like a lot of (uncalled for) advice, but I just want you to slow down. You whipped through high school, achieving something some people never achieve in a life time. Unfortunately, that attitude followed you in college. You succeeded, as you always have, but you whipped through college, too. You missed out on a lot of opportunities because you did your Bachelor's degree in three years; you then will launch right into a Master's degree, and get hired straight out of college.

It won't be until that caring, kind-hearted man forces you to that you begin to slow down and take each moment for what it's worth. Cherish your friendships, your family, and your time. You'll appreciate it, I promise.

Keep your sass, though. It suits you.
-Alex

I'm joining #reverbbroads11. Today's prompt:
If the you of today could go back in time and give advice to any of the previous yous, which age would you visit and what would you tell them?

When autumn leaves start to fall...

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| Monday, October 10, 2011
I don't know about where you are, but the weather has been teasing us. Is it fall, is it summer, is it maybe spring? I decided today that it is officially fall and I kicked it off with this outfit - I've started following a number of fashion blogs (don't worry, I won't turn this into one) in the hopes of finding ways to wear those random accessories I own that I'm never sure what to do with.

Today, I paired my green/white scarf with a tank top and a long sweater (I can never figure out how to wear these long sweaters) with khaki's. I don't normally wear khaki's or jeans to work, but today was fall break day (a day where our students don't have class.) I decided that was a good enough indicator to kick off Fall. This is what I love about Fall:
The changing colors: yellow, orange and red

The beginning of pumpkin season 
(I don't get to carve pumpkins, but I'll eat/drink it wherever I can!)

A calm in the weather 
(I don't think I'd do very well in tropical climates. I thrive with the chill)

Scarves

Apple cider
(hot or cold, this drink is my favorite!)

The threat of the first snow of the season.
(I love snow!)

What are your favorite things about this wonderful season?

A Morning Girl

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A morning girl...that I am not. I've recently joined a group of awesome women (and maybe 1 or 2 men?) on Facebook on a quest to lose 20 pounds by Christmas. I'm actually down 6 since I started, which is just fabulous! I attribute it to three things 1) the support and motivation of these women (1 of them just RAN A MARATHON!) 2) I live in Chicago and I walk EVERYWHERE and 3) my attempt to become more of a morning person.

Since I'm not a morning person, I rarely eat breakfast, but I've been trying to get better about that. I found a few recipes and, after some tweaking, decided to share these amazing breakfast muffins. Let me know what you think!

Ingredients:
1 cup sour milk (put 1 tbsp. vinegar in a 1 cup measure. fill with milk. I use almond milk)
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oat flour (blend 1/2 cup oats until powdery - I suggest NOT skipping this ingredient)
1/2 cup wheat flour (I don't have this. I use regular flour and it's fine.)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup oats
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Combine sour milk, applesauce, margarine, vanilla, egg and sugar. Mix well
3. Stir together oat flour, flour, baking soda and cinnamon.
4. Add flour mixture to wet mixture. Mix well.
5. Fold in oats and apricots.
6. Put in muffin tins (or reusable cups, see below!) and bake for 20 minutes.

(Please excuse the sideways photograph. It refuses to upload appropriately.)

What do you do for breakfast? I'd love to try YOUR recipes!

Lessons Learned

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| Friday, September 30, 2011
If you follow my blog, you're familiar with my #52in52 project. As a grad student, I thought that sounded like an awesome way to start my first year as a professional. I started in January, and figured it would take me through December. Unfortunately, on this last day of September, I completed my project. I've learned a LOT this year, and I've had lots of questions about what I read, and I'd like to share what I've learned. Because I work in education, I rarely track my years from January - December (just look at my memory books with Brandon - they go September - August, like the school year), so we'll work our way through chronologically.

January
I read 17 books in January. (That's either a sign that it's a down-time at work, OR that I spent a lot of time commuting.) I read about struggles and I learned that you're not alone. Whether you are a corporate hot-shot thrown into motherhood when your best friend dies (The Accidental Mother, Rowan Coleman) or struggling because of new surroundings (The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, Dinaw Mengestu), you will never be alone.
I read about choices and I learned that you can overcome anything. Whether it's where you left your brother as a child (Sarah's Key, Tatiana de Rosnay) or a relationship that you didn't act on years ago (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford), there are reasons that we make the choices we do.

(My guess is I'm missing some books in February.)
March
I read 5 books in March. I read about love and passion, and I learned that you can move on from the pain. Whether it's the pain of having to put your best friend to sleep (The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein) or the pain from being the happiest person on earth (Generosity, Richard Powers), we can move on.

April
I read 3 books in April. I read about trials, and I learned that everyone is being tested in their own way, and that we need to learn to appreciate one another more. Whether it's the trials of surviving every day in war, (Generation Kill, Evan Wright), surviving every day in life (Tell Them Who I Am, Elliott Liebow) or the test of a friendship (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See), we all are being challenged, and no one has it "easy." That was a good month for that lesson.

May
I read 3 books in May, and I learned that we have to be more positive in order to succeed in life. (How Full Is Your Bucket, Tom Rath)

June
I read 5 books in June, and I saw my learning as an extension of April and May. We have to be positive in order to overcome life tests. Life's test could involve our parents and their parenting style (The Glass Castle, Jeannette Wells), or not knowing who your son's father is (A Father's Affair, Karel Glastra Van Loon), positivity is key in life.

July
I read 4 books in July. I learned that there are some books I have no desire to finish (but I did - The Things That Matter, Edward Mendelson), and that you shouldn't read sad books on the CTA, unless you want to look crazy (Atonement, Ian McEwan).

August
I read 9 books in August. I learned a great deal about many things (Approaching the Qu'ran, Anthony Michael Sells and Three Cups of Deceit, Jon Krakauer), and re-visited a high-school recommended (but not read) reading (The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros).

September
I finished my challenge with books in September. I laughed (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie), I cried (sobbed - The Meaning of Matthew, Judy Shepard) and I took a look at a fellow (but complex) book lover (The Book Thief, Markus Zusak).

Someone asked my favorite. I can't pick just one - and I think that's proved by what I've learned. I wouldn't give this knowledge up for anything, but I can narrow it down.
1 - The Meaning of Matthew, Judy Shepard
2 - Three Weeks With My Brother, Nicholas Sparks
3 - Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson
4 - The Glass Castle, Jeannette Wells
5 - The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

What have you read this year?

Smile :)

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| Tuesday, August 30, 2011
My GoogleReader is full of STUFF. I won't say junk, as I generally take the time to read almost every article that pops up, but it is FULL. I have some humorous daily cartoons, news from the places I call or have ever called home, some family that I follow, friends from all of my worlds, and then a number of student affairs bloggers. Becca, who I follow on Twitter, posted (in the midst of the busy season) 20 things that make her smile, and it inspired me.

What makes you smile?

Ellie, my 4-year-old lab puppy

A freshly lit candle

Waterfalls

A good cup of coffee

The changing of the leaves

Ripe tomatoes

The lake (any lake will do, really)

Chicago's skyline, day or night

My mother

The first snowfall of the season

Daffodils

A full cookie jar

Completing a good book

The mountains

Spiced Apple Cider

Laughter, especially from babies or small children

The smell of the Sound

Wearing jeans and a hoodie

A fire in the fireplace

That smell that comes with the change of seasons



Waking up early enough to walk across the street and see the sunrise over the lake <3

II'd love to hear what makes you smile...please share :)

Menu!

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| Monday, August 29, 2011
Brandon and I normally do the grocery shopping on Sunday, and get enough to last us about 2 weeks. This week Brandon had a football draft, and we had company for dinner. I also have today off, so I'm treating it as my Sunday. Woke up (earlier than I would have liked), lounged around after a long walk with the dog, drank my coffee, and now I'm getting ready for my grocery shopping trip (by myself, since Brandon works today). This week, I re-read some starred recipes from my Google Reader, and solicited input from some friends. Interested in what we'll be making? Read on:

1. Carbonara (from our favorite issue of Food Network magazine, the Italian issue)
2. Pot Pie (from Food Network magazine)
3. Chicken Chimichangs (from www.blog-chef.net)
4. Stuffed Green Peppers (from www.blog-chef.net)
5. Tomato Chicken Towers (from www.betterthanabox.org)
6. Chicken Pesto Sandwiches (from www.betterthanabox.org)
7. Tomato Goat Cheese Polenta (from Kate, a friend from high school)
8. Aloo Gobi (from my uncle Kirk)
9. Vegetarian Korma (from a good friend, Jenelle)
10. Fancy Chicken Salad (from www.simplyrecipes.com)
11. Cherry Tomato Orzo Salad (from www.simplyrecipes.com)
12. Potato Roast (from www.smittenkitchen.com)
13. Chicken Muamba (from a colleague, Lynne)
14. Teriyaki Steak (modified version of a suggestion from a coworker, Erin)
15. Pasta Italiana (from a colleague, Tanya)

I'm super excited about new recipes - we'll see how Brandon reacts to many of the no meat meals :) Thanks for the suggestions, friends! Now - off to the grocery store!

#52in52

1
| Saturday, August 27, 2011
So, in January, I decided to tackle #52in52, reading 52 books in 52 weeks. Many people said WOAH that's a lot of books. I, however, am almost done, and I still have 18 weeks. I'm on my last 6 books - here's what I've read, in the order (mostly) I read it:
1. Tell Them Who I am (Elliot Liebow)
2. The Postcard Killers (James Patterson)
3. Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout)
4. Night (Elie Wiesel)
5. The Accidental Mother (Rowan Coleman)
6. The Prophet of Yonwood (Jeanne DuPrau)
7. Lock and Key (Sarah Dessen)
8. The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears (Dinaw Mengestu)
9. Life, the Universe and Everything (Douglas Adams)
10. Along for the Ride (Sarah Dessen)
11. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Douglas Adams)
12. The Quickie (James Patterson)
13. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
14. The Devil in the White City (Erik Larson)
15. Sarah's Key (Tatiana de Rosnay)
16. Her (Cherry Muhanji)
17. So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish (Douglas Adams)
18. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Jamie Ford)
19. Mostly Harmless (Douglas Adams)
20. The Bone Collector (Jeffrey Deaver)
21. Three Cups of Tea (Greg Mortenson)
22. The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein)
23. Generosity (Richard Powers)
24. A Vintage Affair (Isabel Wolff)
25. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Lisa See)
26. Generation Kill (Evan Wright)
27. The Corrections (Jonathan Franzen)
28. How Full Is Your Bucket? (Tom Rath)
29. Resistance (Owen Sheers)
30. A Father's Affair (Karel Glastra Van Loon)
31. Bloody Jack (L.A. Meyer)
32. Quarterlife Crisis (Alexandra Robbins)
33. The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barberry)
34. The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)
35. The Things That Matter: What Seven Classic Novels Have to Say about the Stages of Life (Edward Mendelson)
36. Rising Sun (Michael Crichton)
37. Atonement (Ian McEwan)
38. The Stone Monkey (Jeffrey Deaver)
39. Approaching the Qur'an (Michael Anthony Sells)
40. The Coffin Dance (Jeffrey Deaver)
41. Altar of Eden (James Rollins)
42. The House on Mango Street (Sandra Cisneros)
43. BoneMan's Daughter (Ted Dekker)
44. Three Cups of Deceit (Jon Krakauer)
45. Without Remore (Tom Clancy)
46. Three Weeks with My Brother (Nicholas Sparks)

My top favorites were:
1. Sarah's Key
2. Along for the Ride
3. Three Weeks with My Brother
4. The Glass Castle

I have a lot of books that I own in one way or another that I still haven't read. By a lot...I mean over 180 e-books, and exactly 79 hard/paperback books. I've had lots of suggestions, so I'm excited to see the next 6 books (at least) and to keep updating through the year. What's your favorite book that you've read this year?

The 10 rules of owning a dog

1
| Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Are you thinking about getting a dog? Do you currently own a dog, live in a big city, and just need a laugh this morning? Then, by all means, read on.

I've lived in the city for over a year now (which also means I've been an #sapro for over a year now!), and I've had my dog for almost 4 years. I'm by no means the dog whisperer (if I was, would my dog eat video game cases and Big Red gum? Probably not,) but I have quite a wealth of experience on dogs. Half of this stems from walking the dog, the other from living with the dog... This is what I've learned, from that experience:

1. As a dog owner, you are not allowed to introduce yourself to other dog owners, only your dog. (ex: This is Ellie.)
2. After you've introduced your dog, you have to talk about the dog in third person (ex: Ellie did this last night.)
3. When someone says "Oh, your dog is SO SO cute," the appropriate follow-up response is "Thank you, yours is SO adorable." If, like me, you fail to recognize the adorable-ness of their dog, an awkward silence will ensue, leaving the two humans to stare at each others feet while the dogs make out.
4. ALWAYS REMEMBER: People who don't own dogs, but walk at 6:00 in the morning like you do, know more about dogs than you do. If you don't remember this, you may end up in an argument about how to train your dog on the corner of Estes & Sheridan at 6:30, and risk being late for work.
5. When you walk your dog, you will always have to explain something. (ex: I have a Gentle Leader and everyone thinks its a muzzle. Nope, my 40 pound dog just can pull my arm out of it's socket and at 6:00 in the morning, I'm not interested in that.)
6. You have to be willing to get up at ALL hours of the night for your dog; if you are not willing to do this, other dog owners will probably judge you. (ex: Ellie gets up at 3 am - so do humans. Ellie has a lot of energy, so humans get up at 5:45 to walk her, hoping she'll stop eating afore mentioned video games and Big Red gum.)
7. You will spend more money on your dog than you will spend on yourself. Dog toys, especially for a dog who can destroy anything, are more expensive than some toys for children, and you probably need to buy them 10x as often.
8. Your dog will most likely end up taking over your life, especially if you don't have children. (Ex: I can't come to your wedding because I can't find a) friends to stay with b) a dog-friendly hotel or c) anyone to dog-sit. Note: this excuse does not work with children.)
9. MYTH BUSTER: Getting a dog is NOT comparable to having a child, for many reasons. a) You don't give birth to it. b) Feeding it is a LOT easier. c) You can't leave a child at home, all alone, all day. and d) You have to care for it for the rest of it's life - there never comes a point where the dog can feed itself, take itself out, or clean up after itself.
10. You should love your dog, unconditionally, no matter what. If you aren't prepared for that, maybe now is NOT the best time to get a dog. I still love my dog, regardless of what she has eaten, and the countless times she has injured herself (even by just walking)...and I'm still (4 years later) trying to figure out how to make her stop chewing everything in sight.

My dog is a chewer, and very accident-prone, yes, but...isn't she cute?

New year!

0
| Monday, August 15, 2011
My friend Tanya posted this week about her list of things she does to get prepared for the school year, and it got me thinking. I already had the mani-pedi last week (and I'll get another one either pre- or post- homecoming), I got the hair cut:

I've set goals (both personal and work related) for the academic year, and I've got that one resolution (one that I have Ryan to thank,) but what am I missing?

...and then I realized that it's time to update my iPod. I try and update my iPod with the seasons. Of course, around holiday time I'll upload my holiday music, but this year I'm looking for suggestions. What songs get you going on that 19th-work-day-in-a-row? What is that ONE go to song for you on that tough Monday morning, or Friday afternoon? Let me know - I'll be updating this weekend in preparation for the first day of classes (one week from today!)

Feel free to also share what you do to prepare for your new academic year.

#brandonbirthdayextravaganza - The Last Day!

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| Sunday, August 14, 2011
We woke up bright and early Sunday morning (what is it with these early mornings?) and headed to BRUNCH. I love the brunch place we went to. Brandon and I are not huge breakfast eaters, but we devour our food at this place. Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of the place, or the food, but you MUST check it out. It's called Dodo and is located sort of in the meat packing district (at least, that's what it feels like.) Regardless...Delicious.

We then headed to the Chicago History Museum. Brandon's dad is a big history buff, and we knew he'd love it, PLUS we got in for free, and you can't beat that.
I love the stupid photos that museums let you take. I loved this section of the exhibit.
Brandon and his Dad were tired - time to hitch a ride...in a swan?
Like father, like son.
After the museum, we headed home and Jan & Steve had to head back to Grand Rapids. We'll get to see them this upcoming weekend when we head back to Michigan for two days.

As for work, the craziness has started, so if I don't blog from now until October, you'll know why...
8/15 - 8/16 Orientation
8/17 - 8/21 Welcome Week
8/22 First Day of Class
8/24 Student Involvement Fair
8/27 Finance Board Special Hearing
9/10 Fresh in the Ciity (a Big Band performance)
9/17 Finance Board Hearing
9/19 - 9/24 Homecoming
9/25 First of our Red Wings Season Tickets games!
9/28 My birthday
10/2 SGA Retreat
I hope you enjoy the end of your August, and if it's your busy season, get ready - it'll be fun!

#brandonbirthdayextravaganza - Saturday!

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| Saturday, August 13, 2011
Even though he had the present, and his birthday had passed, the celebration continued! We got up BRIGHT and early on Saturday and headed to the Chicago Architectural River Tour. We'd never done it, but heard it was fantastic - and we loved it! A few of my favorite photos...
 I love rounded/curved windows like this!
 Bridges fascinate me.
Ivy-covered buildings will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart.
I love waterfalls.

Following the boat tour, we headed down Michigan Avenue in search of breakfast. We grabbed breakfast and then introduced Brandon's parents to one of our favorite stores...
The LEGO store! The scene right now is the Chicago skyline which is SO cool. Of course, I couldn't let Brandon out of there without a birthday picture...

Following this, we headed up to Andersonville. We visited the Galleria and a number of other artsy stores, and then headed to meet R&Z up at the Evanston Arts Fair. We didn't get any art, but Brandon did eat the eyes off a Spongebob Squarepants Ice Cream...they were bubble gum. Oops?

Since we were in Evanston, we headed up to the Bahai Temple - the only one in North America - which is beautiful. if you've not visited, you should. It's breathtaking, and it's an educational moment, too.
That night, we went to the Grand Lux Cafe for dinner. We only had to wait 40 minutes (I remember the day when waiting 20 minutes in Kalamazoo for dinner seemed like an eternity; for Chicago, 40 minutes is nothing!), and we had delicious food!

Check back once more (tomorrow) for the final installment on the #brandonbirthdeayextravaganza. Who knows - September may see the #ryanandalexbirthdaybash...only Ziena will tell!

#brandonbirthdayextravaganza - The Unveiling!

0
| Thursday, August 11, 2011
Sorry, friends (all five of you.) I got busy and sidetracked, but I know you are DYING to find out the gift. The unveiling is here!

As you know, I made sure that this weekend was amazing. However, I couldn't let him even guess (nor could I have this much hype) and hand him a tiny gift (which is kind of what it was.) So I did a few things. 1) I put it in this HUGE box (the box is taller than I am. I'm 5'1") and 2) I kept telling him "it's large. It's HUGE, honey.

My boss, Erin, is super creative (she'll tell you she isn't, but look at the cover of our new Student Org Handbook and you'll know otherwise,) so she decorated the outside. It said HAPPY BIRTHDAY Brandon!!!!! To get it home from work, however, we had to stick it out the window. We drove on Lakeshore that way.
He just WENT for it. Then he found out that the marker had seeped through - super funny! Also, the "box" was actually 6 small boxes taped together.
It's...a hockey stick?
Yep - it's a hockey stick. HOWEVER, it also signifies that we are now Red Wings Season Ticket Holders. Our games:
9/25 vs. Chicago Blackhawks
10/7 vs. Ottawa Senators
10/28 vs. San Jose Sharks
11/11 vs. Edmonton Oilers
12/10 vs. Winnipeg Jets
1/23 vs. St. Louis Blues
2/12 vs. Philadelphia Flyers
2/25 vs. Colorado Avalanche
3/2 vs. Minnesota Wild
3/19 vs. Washington Capitals

We both are super excited - and Brandon spent the rest of the evening being excited. (Hey Detroit friends...get ready to see us a TON over the next year!) We followed up the unveiling with dinner at a cute little Tapas restaurant in Wrigleyville called Twist. If you haven't been there, GO (or come visit and we'll take you.) It's a twist on the typical tapas you will order, but we loved it. My favorites are the Bacon Wrapped Dates, the Tilapia, and the Italian Sausage - but they ALL were DELICIOUS!

#brandonbirthdayextravaganza - Actual Birthday Dinner

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| Monday, August 8, 2011
Short post for a short day -

Brandon's actual birthday is August 4; on Thursday, we went to dinner at a restaurant that we probably would not have found were it not for eRewards and Restaurant.com...(a background...)

Brandon and I both participate in eRewards surveys. He gets awesome prizes (like Gamestop gift cards and Restaurant.com gift certificates) while I stopped doing surveys because my prizes were so dreadful (a girl can only have so many magazine subscriptions.) He decided to cash one in for Restaurant.com to help us learn more about Chicago. We received a $25 coupon (have to spent $35) to the Blue Elephant. We walked right past it, and would have kept walking had I not known the street address.

It was SUPER tiny inside, but we dove right in. We started with the appetizer platter...
We loved everything except the Tofu. That was a little weird. 
I went basic with Pad Thai (you can never go wrong, AND my chiropractor recommended it.) 

Brandon was a little more out of his element and daring with the Spicy Udon Noodles with Crunchy Chicken. Super good!
We're HUGE desert people, so we couldn't pass up trying what we thought was a new desert. Little did we know...
If you remember the first time we dined out with Ziena and Ryan Miller, Ziena had a weird Marshmallow type ice cream... It's known as "Mochi" and that's what we (accidentally) ordered.  Brandon had the Mango,
But I was adventurous with the Green Tea. They were good - but they do have a texture issue.
We then walked home and had to get ready for his parents (and the unveiling...!) Check back tomorrow for the unveiling!
 

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