Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Random Recaps

Quick thoughts organized by ASCA's domains: 

  • I finished out the quarter strong. I decided to take the extra class so I can sit for my license some day if I so choose. The class had a lot of potential, but fell incredibly short. I try to search for the learning in the experience, but mostly I just feel like I didn't get my money's worth.
  • I applied for degree conferral and am almost done with my 3 year grad program. How has it been 3 years? It has gone so quickly. At the same time, when I try to think back to life in California it seems so long ago. Time is a funny thing.

  • It has been almost one year since I was on the way to Michigan for my fiance's family holiday party and got the call about my mom's liver failure. My initial thought was, "I'm not ready". Turns out, it doesn't matter if you're ready or not, life doesn't care. Life is funny that way.
  • We're in the thick of wedding planning. I have been neglecting the blog and using all my spare time working on the wedding website: We're going to do online RSVP. I'm sure that will go over well with the 65+ crowd! 
  • I've updated my resume in preparation of starting the job search/fair circuit in January. The next few weeks of break will be filled with creating an awesome cover letter, researching potential schools, and getting in touch with friends and contacts. 
  • I think that we will see more teachers and counselors retiring this year with contracts being negotiated. I know teachers who retired last year in anticipation of the changes. They could have worked a few more years, but decided to get out. This may be good for new professional school counselors trying to break into the field. Unions are a funny thing. 
How many times did I use "funny"? I'm certain I could have used more appropriate words, but it's late, and right now all these things seem funny. Funny strange, funny interesting, funny ironic, funny, funny, funny.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cura Personalis

The principal at my practicum site is pretty neat. I totally drank the kool aid he was serving during the staff days before the students returned. Being a selective enrollment school, there is a huge tendency to focus solely on academics and totally burn out the students. I was wrestling with the high academic rigor at a school like this even before I started. As soon as he referenced Race to Nowhere I knew this school was special. The next thing he talked about was the Latin phrase, cura personalis, meaning care of the whole person. How cool that this super rigorous school with very high functioning students is developing a philosophy that focuses on the WHOLE student! Another indicator of this shift is the first thing the AP mentioned when I asked her what reforms are on the way. Her response? Social emotional learning!  So I forwarded all Dr. Mason's SEL workshop materials and I am going to talk to her about doing a brief presentation during the next professional development day.

During the staff days the new administration asked each department to break out and create a "FedEx" project, something that would be delivered "overnight" or in this case, during the first quarter of the year. The counseling department developed a project to increase visibility, focus on sophomores (often overlooked when focusing on transitioning freshman and getting juniors/seniors ready for college), and address whatever stress they may be facing. 

The intervention developed has been named "Lunch Bunch" and will be an informal group discussion during each lunch period once a week for 4 weeks. The topics are: Too much to do, not enough time-using my time better; They expect too much! Responding to pressures of school and college; Do I have to be the best all the time? Taking care of yourself; and I'm overwhelmed! Sorting out what's important. The only downside is they decided to hold these groups on Fridays when I'm not there! I am so sad to be missing out. The upside? Students will have a chance to  normalize their feelings, find new strategies, develop relationships with their counselors, and maybe develop more specific groups from topics as more needs are identified.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

Today at my site was testing day. The PLAN, EXPLORE, and either the PSAT or practice ACT were administered to all 9th, 10th, and 11th grade students. Unfortunately, I was not at my site to see how it all goes down, but I did have a chance to help organize test materials. I also sat in a meeting where accommodations, and other logistical planning took place. There did not seem to be too much anxiety or stress during the days leading up to the testing. Are these students so used to testing that it doesn't phase them? Will their attitudes be different when they get their test results back? I would assume the students taking PLAN would have some idea of where their strengths and weaknesses lie, after taking EXPLORE the year prior. I hope I can work with some kids to interpret their results. I should make a list of things I'd like to do during my internship.

Anyone else out there help with the testing today? How did it go?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Swish Your Bushy Tail

Grey squirrel, Grey squirrel
Swish your bushy tail.

Put a nut between your toes
Wrinkel up your little nose.

Grey squirrel, grey squirrel 
Swish your bushy tail!  

I love this camp song, but I do not love the three dead squirrels I have seen in the past two weeks. Who is killing all our squirrels?! I don't always like the squirrels, especially when they make that barking sound, but that doesn't mean I want to see them dead in the alley. They are so cute and one of the few species of wildlife we have in the city. I hate to think that people's rat poison is also killing the squirrels. The ones I've seen look in tact, so I know they weren't hit by cars. I wonder if there is anything that can be done about this? Anyone a squirrel expert?

Monday, September 19, 2011

More Second City Firsts

I decided to revisit my list of things to do in Chicago that I created when I first started the blog. I was able to cross off a handful of items. This September I went to my first Chicago Bears game. BEAR DOWN! It was a preseason game, but it was still exciting and nice to see Soldier Field. I was also able to cross off visits to many of the museums in the city. During my job with Disney I chaperoned a few field trips with a student who needed assistance with walking. I also chaperoned the 8th grade overnight that took the students all over the city. This was a great way to get a taste of what Chicago has to offer for free! I would like to revisit some of the spots so I can spend a bit more time experiencing them.

I wish my 30 before 30 list was getting more attention. I just re-read it and I can't cross off a single thing! Even with a list, I have to be intentional and make a plan to achieve goals, whatever they might be.

Bears game. It was pretty hot that night!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Taking a Stance

Right now is such an exciting time to be in education, but it is also a very scary time. There are so many aspects to consider when forming a stance on public/private/charter education and its reform. How can I take a stance when I have no idea where to even begin? Currently I subscribe to a handful of education blogs. Many of the blogs I read probably fall into the more "liberal" stance on education. This is most likely a direct result of my graduate courses that highly emphasize the professional urban and multicultural educator and Vincentian Personalism. I am not a highly religious person, raised in the church, but not an active member since I left my family  home. However, I think the philosophy behind Vincentian Personalism is further reaching than organized religion allows. Sorry for the rambling tangent.

Things that come to mind while trying to discover my stand on education:
  1. The information I continue to read is pretty one sided an I feel like I need to read more opinions and research about the corporate takeover structure of schools and education in general. Are these business men doing their due diligence? What do they really know about classroom management, teacher unions, angry parents, social-emotional learning, etc.?
  2. There are so many amazing things happening in suburban, rural, and urban schools that need to be spotlighted . If we emphasized the positive more often it will become infectious and inspiring! 
  3. While there are exciting things happening, it is very scary with the CPS union contracts being renegotiated. It seems like there is a very real possibility of a strike in the future. What impacts might this have for us entering the field next fall? What will this mean for future union members? What's up with unions anyway? How will this impact the students of today and years to come?
  4. I am currently interning at a school with great teachers and heavy parent involvement. Many of these students have more access than imaginable, while others are on free and reduced lunch. How can we help those with less access and opportunity?
  5. Do I feel called to work in a school like Northside, Payton, and Whitney or somewhere that has no counseling program, where the need is much greater?
In other news: MSU alum, Magic Johnson has just partnered with a charter school. Why not in Lansing, Magic? Can't support your hometown and home state that has been in economic crisis longer than most? Either way, it's nice to see him making an investment in the future. Edison Learning

A few edu blogs in my Google Reader:

Gregory Michie for Huffington Post
Gregory Michie has been a teacher and teacher educator in Chicago for 20 years. He has published numerous essays and articles about his work with children, and is the author of Holler If You Hear Me: The Education of a Teacher and his Students (2nd edition, Teachers College Press, 2009), and See You When We Get There: Teaching for Change in Urban Schools (Teachers College Press, 2005). He also co-edited City Kids, City Schools: More Reports from the Front Row (The New Press, 2008). He teaches in the Department of Foundations, Social Policy, and Research at Concordia University Chicago.

Education Week's Bridging Differences with Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch 
Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch have found themselves at odds on policy over the years, but they share a passion for improving schools. Bridging Differences will offer their insights on what matters most in education.

Chicago Teachers Union Blog 

Ed Week's Why Boys Fail by Richard Whitmire 
Former editorial writer at USA Today and past board president of the National Education Writers Association, is a frequent commentator on national education issues. 

Leave comments on other blogs that are worth reading!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Final Gifts

I hated Statistics in college, thankfully this is not the Stats I am writing about. Blogger has a new format and it's interesting to easily see the stats of each blog post. No one ever read the ones tagged Death and Loss. I can't say I'm completely shocked. Who wants to read about death and loss? The bf and I are currently faced with a very sick family member once again and it makes me reflect on the past year. I think death and loss are such funny things, but it happens to EVERYONE at some point. Why do we feel so awkward talking about it? I am working very hard to challenge myself to be open about my own personal thoughts on the subject and hope to have more dialogue with people, not just via the blog.

Watching the 9/11 reflections on TV really had me worked up today. It is so interesting how people make sense of death and loss in such different ways. I noticed they only interviewed people who were able to draw strength from the horrible attacks. What factors are at play that allow some to rise above, draw meaning, and turn their hurt and loss into something that serves others? What is missing in those who are still out for blood, unable to cope, and honor those dead by living their best life possible?

After my mom died I read Final Gifts. It truly changed my views on dying and death, not in terms of heaven, hell, and afterlife. Rather, on how to approach those who are dying to make them more comfortable and in turn comfort oneself. I highly recommend everyone read it, even if you don't know someone who is dying right now, chances are you will someday. You can never be prepared to lose someone you love, but you can definitely have some understanding of the process before it comes. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Have a Slice of Humble Pie

My first official week of internship is over. The students all seemed really excited to be back at school, catching up with friends, and getting into the swing of things. I was just as excited as they were to be at the school. I won't bore you with the details of my first week as a school counselor intern. Let's just say, it was a bit boring! I can definitely see value in what I was doing during the two days, but it just wasn't exciting. I sat in on schedule changes, made some bulletin boards, read through a very rough draft of a RAMP application, and printed schedules. I shuffled around trying to stay out of people's way and asked most of my questions while trying not to be a pest.

I talked to some other girls who were in their first week of internship and they all felt similar. The first week was very humbling. I am used to being in control, knowing the answers, feeling a sense of mastery in my school work or tasks on the job. I don't have a home at my site; no desk, not even a drawer to put my purse, let alone my own supplies. It's so strange having to ask for EVERYTHING. stapler, staples, scissors, computer log in, etc. I know this is part of a new job, but I felt like having an intern was somewhat of an afterthought of the department. (This is probably absolutely not true, but it's just where I was at that moment.)  I think it would have been helpful if they had a binder of general information for the interns. Things they could include in the binder would be a bell schedule (they have 4 different schedules depending on the day or week), a list of the teacher and their emails, a list of the programs and services they are currently providing, the code to the copy machine, etc. There were times in the day when my supervisor had absolutely nothing for me to do so I came up with my own suggestions. I asked to get a Naviance account so I could explore the site and to read through their RAMP documents. Even with these ideas to work on, there were times I felt helpless, like more of a burden than asset. This upset me because I felt like I could be working at my job instead of bumming around a school like a lost puppy. I kept telling myself this is normal for the first week and it will certainly get better. Drinks with my student colleagues certainly helped. They all had similar experiences and we pepped each other up!

DISCLAIMER: I hope no one takes this the wrong way, I am so blessed to be at a school with such great teachers, administration, students, and parents. I can't wait to get more involved in the school. This is just my processing the first week in an informal candid way.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fall Leaves, Fall

Fall leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leave speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autum tree.

I shall smile while wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night's decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

-Emily Bronte

The past few days have brought the first taste of fall. The fall is my absolute favorite season. I love the leaves, crisp air, smell of fires, snugly clothing, and football. For some reason the onset of fall has me feeling very sad and emotional. During my mom's service there was a reading about how we'll remember her at all these different points in time. One of those times was the changing of the seasons. I didn't feel this way when summer arrived, but fall really has me missing her. It feels like I am getting further and further away from her. Fall means it was 3 seasons ago she was with us. Fall means it is almost a year since I've talked to her. Fall means the holidays are around the corner, the first time without her doing the Christmas shopping.

We were at the cottage, now Dad's house, this past weekend. It seemed oddly normal to be there without her bustling around cooking, cleaning, chatting, and shopping. It shouldn't seem normal. She shouldn't be gone. The reality is almost too much to bear when I really stop and think about it, but I will survive. I have to find the balance of missing her, remembering good times, and looking to the future. What other choice is there? Exactly. None.

Well, there is a choice, it might be time to visit the counseling center at DePaul.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Did It!

After the chop
I did it people, I finally cut my hair. I hadn't had a hair cut since right after my mom died. It is so liberating, but I really miss the length. I love how quick I can wash it and condition it. I love that it isn't always stuck under my purse strap. I think when I style it I look more professional.

My long hair in MAY! Me and Ms. Cali at my first ever Chicago White Sox game! ( I need to blog about this still)

Today was the first day of student attendance at my internship site. The students seemed really excited to be back in the building and catching up with friends who they haven't seen all summer. I also had my very first practicum class. It went okay, there was some confusion and miscommunication, but I think we're going to be a great group!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pinterest Party!

I am not the best photographer
Some of my lady friends and I are newly obsessed with Pinterest. Monday night they came over, brought a homemade appetizer (many found on Pinterest!), and we each made a craft. I made a wreath to hang in September to celebrate the onset of the greatest season of all, FOOTBALL season! Specifically, MSU football.

The basic directions can be found at Domestifluff. I added a hand made green bow made with wire ribbon and a squishy football I found at Michael's for $1.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I get by with a little help from my friends

I know this has been said before, but today I am thankful for my friends. A few weeks ago at my retail job a co-worker told me I harp on people and I would be more successful in whatever my future profession might be if I could reflect on that. This guy was my favorite co-worker, nice to everyone, and generally a good mood dude. I told him that I felt like I worked really hard and try to encourage others to as well. I was so shocked that he was bold enough to tell me this, and even more shocked that he felt this way. I went in the bathroom and nearly cried, lost sleep, and dreaded going to work with him the next week. The more I think about it, the more I feel like this may be true. I do nag the boyfriend, I do find myself stepping up and delegating, but I also try to encourage and say thanks.

Death is a funny thing. So is moving far distances. People the boyfriend and I were very close with  never once reached out to me when my mom passed. Now, understand that I told James I didn't want to really be fielding phone calls, but I am still kind of hurt about it. I would never say anything to them, but I'm not sure it's something I'll forget. No text, no card, no plant, no facebook message, basically nothing. Are these friends? How do we define friends? By convenience? Proximity? This is especially interesting when evaluating relationships when it comes to the wedding invite list. Do you invite people who only show up for the good times in your life and are non-existent during your lowest points?

Now, for the thankful part. I have made some great new friends and developed deeper relationships with acquaintances who are the best time to hang out with. Not only are they so fun, they really care. I hope I adequately express how much I value their relationships.

Today after leaving internship I had a new text from a newer friend. "Based on weekend's observations-you delegating breakfast duties, inspiring campfire games, and asking about my well being-I know you will be a great counselor, mentor and contact for all students you encounter. It's a perfect fit." This text was so uplifting and meaningful to me, particularly because of the above experience with my coworker. It felt so good to be validated in this way.

How can I have that type of impact on others? Who can you sincerely thank today?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose

The new principal at my internship played this video during staff development. He is really a visionary, exciting others and putting idea into action. More on that in another blog. I love the message. I am enthralled by the performance of this artist. I am constantly finding connections in my life. There were parallels between the three motivating factors and my past experiences with 4-H Youth Development. 4-H's youth development research identified 4 essential elements of positive development. We call it BIG- M. Belonging, Independence, Generosity, and Mastery. While watching this video, Dan Pink's Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose began to sound very similar. I find myself wondering why other research did not include belonging. While 4-H's BIG-M is directed towards youth development it still applies to adults and motivation. Many people are motivated by the need for belonging and a connectedness, more so than autonomy. In fact, many maladaptive behaviors are mainly driven for the need to be belong. For example, some people might exhibit behaviors such as clingliness (is that a word?) or helplessness sacrificing autonomy for a relationship with a lover, parent, or friend.

There is no question that 4-H's BIG-M and Dan Pink's philosophy on motivation are connected to school counseling or education in general. How can you incorporate these ideas into your school  counseling practice?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wright, Right, or Rite?

My blog topics are backing up because each day at my internship site brings something new and exciting. The first day I started, my supervisor had me read through the book On Writing the College Admissions Essay by Harry Bauld. It was witty, full of good information, and an entertaining read. In a past post I wrote about things coming full circle. I have found this to be especially true the past few weeks. Bauld talks about how to reflect and translate your ideas and personality succinctly, with detail, and in an engaging way for the reader. His tips reminded me of the Integrative Knowledge E-Portfolio pilot I participated in. It really helped me consider how I can continue to finesse my writing both on my portfolio and in my blog. Which brings me back to the question, "Do I want this blog to have a more professional tone, or more of a rambling tone? I think more professional or polished, yet still in my unique voice.

Speaking of polishing my writing, today I was in a conference room and there were posters of the 7 Deadly Sins of Writing, one of which is wordiness! Haha! I don't think I am too wordy in my school papers, but I definitely am on this blog. I really want to develop my writing skills and brush up on grammar and punctuation. The question is, do I have time?! My professors new blog, SCOPE, highlights the impact a short but concise piece of writing. I am trying to come up with a contribution for it so make sure you start following SCOPE. It seemed like in undergrad you are always trying to stretch the page number on papers and sound as smart as possible. I find the opposite is true in graduate school, rather they are looking for clearly communicated ideas.

Lately, the blog feels more like a dumping grounds for my thoughts. Now I need to marry the brain dump with writing.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Professional Identity?

I have so many things I want to blog about. My personal life, my internship experiences, and how they overlap. My first real boss told me everything I learned in undergrad would come full circle in grad school, everything would begin to make sense.  If I am really introspective I find this is true, and it kinda creeps me out. I hate having really long blog posts but I feel like I could type for hours about things I've noticed, am excited about, wonder about, or find upsetting. So for starters...

Where does your professional persona end and your personal identity begin? Are they one in the same? On a continuum? Totally separate? I have no problem giving advice to my friends, but I wouldn't give direct advice to my students. Can I remain neutral during family conflict? How do I use these new professional skills I've paid so much for when the stakes are high in my personal life, or the life of a loved one? I feel so young at heart and fear people take my excitement and seemingly carefree attitude as careless, immature, or incompetent. I look young too, and as much as people say first impressions don't matter, they really do. Should I cut my hair?

I act a fool around my friends, especially those I've known the longest. I have crazy opinions and have no qualms about sharing them. Now I am on the brink of becoming professional counselor. Will they be judging me "the counselor" when I act this way? Should I be typing like I think and talk in my authentic Rachel voice when this blog has been shared with my graduate student colleagues?

Many of these questions I am just beginning to consider and reflect upon. I wish more people would comment and let me know what they think! Are these ideas the type of thing we will discuss in practicum? Is this part of my quarter-life crisis? Is it a crisis at all or just the natural development of a person? Help!

I was very excited one of my professors is reading my blog, which gets back to the question above. I have thought about this quite a bit and considered starting a strictly school counseling blog, using a more professional voice. I decided to continue as I have been because this voice is authentically me. My personal life directly impacts who I am as a professional and vice versa. I started the blog to help reflect, set goals, save memories, and share with others. As I look back at the posts I am amazed by its evolution. From a carefree blog, to processing grief, and now reflecting and developing a professional identity. Hopefully it will have a little bit of everything!

I wish I could talk to my mom about this stuff, but we're not even going to go there today.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Working for Free, aka, Interning

I started working at my school counseling internship this week. I have been helping with school registration and shadowing counselors helping students adjust their schedules. Many students are taking 3-4 AP classes as juniors or seniors. One dilemma students are having with scheduling is dropping an AP class. Suddenly summer is coming to an end and they realize they may have taking on more than they feel ready for. Others have neglected the summer reading and feel unprepared for classes to begin. Whatever the case, students are not allowed to drop AP classes during registration. They had a fair amount of time in the spring to drop the AP courses. Of course, some will be able to drop the class with an appeal to the department head. The other dilemma students are having is wanting to take a "fun" class that may not be considered as academically rigorous on college applications. These are the same kids who are taking 4 AP classes and will probably graduate high school with enough credits to be a sophomore. My heart went out to the students as I watched them struggling to make these tough decisions. When you're 17 school is pretty much your life and your schedule is a BIG DEAL.

These observations got me thinking about a few things that may lead to future postings.
  1. What a lucky problem for these students to have. They have been raised to value education and have been given amazing resources in one of the nation's largest urban and often failing school districts. 
  2. I know a strong course load is essential and important for schools to encourage. How do we as school counselors guide students to decisions about dropping APs or taking what some would feel is too many APs?
  3. With such a strong emphasis on rigorous schedule, is there time for young people to take fun classes like families and relationships or life skills like I did? How can they explore these types of things? 
  4. ...And. these classes led me to my career, in a way, it seems as if the heavy emphasis on some of the APs sends the message that certain careers are not valued as much.
  5. It's as if the rat race begins at 14 when you enter 9th grade, or is it 7th, when students are taking the ISATS that will produce scores for high school applications? (It's not really a rat race, because education is not a meaningless pursuit, although it can be endless!)
  6. This is the opposite problem we discuss often in class. Typically we talk about how to encourage students to take harder courses and work on closing the achievement gap
  7. I  need to find a wardrobe that doesn't make me look 50, but more importantly, doesn't make me look 19. I may also need to cut my hair.
Whoa, that was a lot of thinking from 2 days of  handing out schedules! Thoughts?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

When will it get easier?

I miss my mom more than usual tonight. I miss the grandma my children will never have. I miss my friend. It doesn't get easier, at least not yet. Time for bed.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'd Rather be Golfing

Golf bar crawl 2010
This Thursday I am thankful for my new golf clubs. The Mr. got me golf clubs for my birthday and we have been getting some use out of them the last few weeks. The other day's rant about our finances was just a short moment in time on that one day. Most of the time I don't feel so overwhelmed, so don't worry! Today I am thankful for the time the Mr. and I get to spend together on the golf course. When we're golfing together we are encouraging each other, cheering for each other, teaching and learning. This time is also nice because we are doing something together that doesn't involve the TV or the computer; something active. I also cherish this time because we are outside enjoying the sun, lake, trees, and nature in general. So today I am thankful for golf clubs, because they are so much more than they were ever intended to be.

Today was also my first time visiting the South Shore Cultural Center in Chicago. This Chicago landmark is also listed in the National Register and is absolutely beautiful. It needs a bit more care, but it is still such a cool place in the city that many people probably have never even seen. There is a municipal golf course on its grounds and is very affordable to play. You should check it out if you ever have the chance!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We're Screwed

Each time the Mr. and even begin talking about our financial situation, or should I call it our financial "investment", we quickly say to each other, "We're screwed" and leave the conversation at that. What else is there to say?  We figure after our undergrad and advanced degrees we'll owe around...$270,000 to the government and our parents. This doesn't even include the interest. Whhhhaaaaaaat!?  Yes, I am serious. And that is why we think about it for about 5 minutes, feel completely overwhelmed, and move on to another subject. I feel very goal oriented and future focused, but our future is very daunting and can feel overwhelming. Especially considering the fact that we're not that young anymore. We're pretty much full blown adults. With no savings (small retirement funds), with no investments, still renting and feeling very much screwed. Lord help this economy. Pray for us to get jobs when we're done with school. Let's not even think about the goal of owning a home. I've pretty much kissed that goodbye for the next 10-15 years. The other day I calculated the cost of renting from the time we moved in together to when the Mr. finishes law school. We're talking almost 100k here people. I keep feeling like we made a very grave mistake. Would I trade it for the amazing times I've had in California and Chicago? Would I trade it for the quality education I am getting at DePaul? Right now I say no. Ask me next year when I've graduated, looking for a job and about to enter repayment.

Which leads me to the cost of weddings. Is it irresponsible to be spending 30k on a wedding when we're going to be so far in the hole. Sometimes I feel like 30k isn't even going to make a dent on our school debt so we should have the wedding we want. Other times I feel incredibly guilty. What's a girl to do...

How can I help guide students to college knowing the debt load then will face? How can I assure them education is worth the investment when I'm scared myself? I guess it's better than no education, right?

When will the education bubble burst? Not before my time, that's for sure.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Door is Locked!!!

I was at SLT the other day at 7 am to help with the truck (shipment). I was looking for the toilet brush, because I had asked the manager to buy a new one. The old one had disappeared and the bowls were looking grimy. Anyways, I tried the men's door and it was locked! My first thought was, "what if someone is sitting on the can dead and was there over night?" I kid you not, my heart skipped a beat as I was thinking this. Wide eyed (as wide as these Korean eyes can get), I shared this fear with my co-worker who looked at me like I was crazy. Why is that my first thought? Why did I get really scared to find a body? Why was that my first thought in The Case of the Mystery Wheelchair?

I am happy to report there was no one in there. The truck driver used it and locked it behind him when he left.

That still doesn't help me with my jumping to conclusions...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hmmm (Can't think of a better title)

8 months later, and I still have a moment each day where I realize my mom is no longer with us. Every damn time it stops my heart for just a moment and takes my breath away. It feels like being sucker punched, having a ton of bricks on my chest, or recovering from open heart surgery (or what I imagine it to be like after vising the Mr.'s gpa in the hospital). I wonder if this will ever end. Do I want it to? When the day comes that I don't feel this way, will I feel guilty? I suspect so.

On the other hand, I love my life and everything that is happening to and around me. Is this normal? I suspect yes.

First Cubs game of the season. They got the W.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Who Says You Can't Go Home? (Bon Jovi and Sugarland, it's a good song, really)

Childhood home
My first post on this blog was August 2nd, 2010, almost exactly a year ago. I started the blog to keep track of new exciting things the Mr. and I were doing in the city. I haven’t posted for quite some time, probably because the most recent posts were not exactly upbeat.  I typically have a cheery, sometimes sarcastic disposition, and lately things have not been so. I didn’t want to crowd the internet with ramblings of feeling sorry for myself and complaining. Now I am ready to blog again and talk about the exciting things happening in life, with only a few bits of complaining.

That being said, we are almost completely settled into our new place since the fire. We have been here for about 2 weeks and I found myself thinking that it almost feels like home. Which leads me to the question,  when does “home” become an apartment in a new city instead of your parents’, or in my case parent’s, home? Is it when you leave for college? When you get your first apartment? When you finally have “real person” furniture and belongings? When you feel independent? It really made me sad to think that my dad’s is no longer my “home”. I love my life, my new place, living with my future husband, and being independent. It is very strange, and I just can’t put my finger on it, but I guess this is what growing up feels like. Leaving behind childhood, what you used to know, and growing into a new, better, version of you. What I do know is that I am not that different from the little girl who grew up in Kentwood, MI and that no matter where my Dad lives, I can always go home.

And for a bit of complaining, it really sucks having to say my Dad’s house and not my parents’. I was thinking the other day what assumptions new people will make when they always hear me saying my Dad’s place, my dad this, my dad that.  AND, it is weird that Dad is now living at the cottage and sold the condo. That was pretty hard, because the condo had so much of Mom in it, but I know she is not in “things” rather, in memories and in us. I also can see how people might become hoarders.

Also, can someone please help me get my commas under control? I just never know when to use them or other punctuation!

*And, we set a wedding date: July 20, 2012. More to come on that in the next few posts! I do promise this will not turn into a wedding blog though. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Can you believe this is our life?

Last November I specifically remember walking home from the EL on a snowy night think about how happy I was. About to be engaged, loving the city life, great friends, amazing family, loving my job, loving grad school, and excited about the future. I often would say to James, "Can you believe this is our life? We live in Chicago, you're in law school, I'm getting my masters degree!" Thursday morning our lives were thrown upside down by a fire in our building and we find ourselves asking again, "Can you believe this is our life?" My mom is dead, our stuff is ruined, we're about to have zero income for the next year, and we need to clean and replace everything, find another apartment and move. WTF just happened? I've been pushing on since my mom passed away saying to myself, "Just make it 'til the quarter is over, just make it 'til June 21 when work is done." I'm pretty sure I'm on the brink of a breakdown. Here are some very cliche but helpful phrases I have been using for self talk:

  • Keep calm and carry on
  • What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
  • God will never give you more than you can handle
  • Only you have the power to change your attitude
  • Be still and know that I am god.
  • God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference
I just wanted summer to get here so I could breathe, grieve, and just BE. Guess that was too much to ask for, huh?

What are some other good self talk phrases?

Also, a special shout out to the Chicago Fire Department for their speedy response. As James says, "They kicked ass, took names, and rolled out".

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Funny How Things Work...

I wanted to call you today. I had some down time that I only get on Wednesdays and I was feeling like I hadn't talked to you for a while. I wanted to ask you how long you can leave thawed chicken breast in the fridge before you cook it. I wanted to tell you what's new with my work and school, and that my neck hurts because I still have that crappy pillow. 

When you have your first broken heart and feel so sad, thinking like you've lost something precious, feeling worthless, like the world can't continue, you think you know what longing is. It is horrible longing for that boy or girl to like you, to realize they're an idiot, to come back to you. That is nothing compared to the longing of grief. Longing for something that you know is unattainable, longing from the pit of your stomach, the core of your being.

Tonight I came across a poem after searching "longing and grief". The poem, "But Perhaps God Needs Longing" by Nelly Sachs was written  about "the longing for a lover and of the disappointment of lost love. After her experiences during the Holocaust, most of Sachs’s poems dealt with the destruction of European Jewry. She used her poems to express the deep sense of loss and grief that she felt and as a form of catharsis for the many emotions that she had experienced during the war years" ( I felt like I really could relate to this because I have been using writing as an outlet too. It really came full circle because she was a survivor of the Holocaust which made me think of Logotherapy created by a Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl. The basis of his theory was developed during his time in a concentration camp and he posits that:
  • Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
  • Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
  • We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stand we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.(Wikipedia) 
While I know this grief would not be categorized as unchangeable suffering compared to the Holocaust, I do try to keep in mind the power of  attitude like Frankl's theory suggests. But it's hard.

I apologize because this post was very scattered and in no way, shape, or form cited correctly.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cheeseburger in Paradise

Today is mom's birthday. Towards the end she was needing to eat more protein compared to the about zero she was used to eating. Dad would go to Mr.Burger every day and get her a cheeseburger and she truly enjoyed them. It was nice to see her have something she could enjoy when she was in pain and feeling down. She also was loving baked potatoes with cheese and sour cream and coffee ice cream. Coffee ice cream was her last meal the night before she passed away. I will always try to remember that she was still enjoying some parts of life as she slipped away from us. So today I picture her celebrating in paradise having a juicy cheeseburger, or may a cheeseburger cake? Who knows. What I do know is that I miss her terribly. 

Happy birthday mom!

Friday, February 4, 2011

IKEA is for Dreamers

I wanted to share this blog today because I love to see people's ingenuity in action. People are thinking up crazy ways to reuse/repurpose Ikea goods. Some of these are really creative and a good source for inspiration.

Check it out at

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Blows Just Keep Coming

Warning, this is a bummer post.

I opened the file "Wedding List" to approximate how many invitations we would be sending and the first person on the list is, yup, you guessed it, Mom. No tears were shed, but it certainly reinforced the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach; like someone knocked the wind out of me; an elephant on my chest. Now I don't even feel like tallying up the number of invitations.

I can't bring myself to delete her from the list. Whelp, there's the tears. Great. Dad's cleaning the house and purging it of all her clothes and belongings, deactivated her cell phone, had Kim remove her Facebook. Isn't her loss enough, why do things have to radically change at the house? Why so fast? Hospice had their contracted company come within a few hours after she passed to take all the equipment. In less than half a day you couldn't even tell a sick person had been living there. In less than 2 weeks you can't tell a woman had lived at the condo for 8 years, the closets and drawers empty of her makeup, hair stuff, lotion, undergarments, sweaters, purses, jackets, shoes. Everything. All the craft stuff she was working on or kept around for when the grandkids visited, her sewing machine, tea, scarves. Next it will be all the little knickknacks women are known to collect and men are known to despise. I talked with her about how I was scared it wouldn't feel like home with her gone and now I feel like my fears are turning into reality. I guess it just won't be the home I am used to...

Even though it really makes me sad that he's getting rid of her stuff I stay quiet. She was his wife, it is his house, and he is there all the time. I suppose this is just how he is dealing with his grief, and so I pretend like it doesn't hurt when he fills another huge garbage bag to bring to Goodwill. For me, it feels like another loss every time he gets rid of something.

So tonight, I am not going to delete her from our wedding list. Tonight she still get's the number one spot.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Little Things

Instead of writing an original post for today I thought I'd just post what I shared at mom's memorial. I think it makes an excellent blog post.
When I first sat down to write this, all that came to mind were things I was going to miss about mom and the things I won’t be able to do with her like random phone calls while walking to the train and hanging up quick when it comes, knowing she won’t be offended; trying new recipes and sending her pictures of them; emailing decorating ideas for our apartment that I’ll never actually do, or that James would never go for; going to the dollar store, big lots, thrift stores, and garage sales to find that deal on something I don’t really need; hearing about her weekly visits with Taylor, Megan and Daniel; and complaining to her about problems I know how to solve myself but just want to complain about.
The hardest part for me is coming to terms with realizing my expectations for the future were in vain. My mom was supposed to be the grandma, the first call when my babies are sick, even before the doctor; the one we see once a week, at every holiday, at school and sporting events, and on warm summer weekends at the cottage. She was supposed to be the one to help us pick our first house, pick the colors, and decide where furniture should go. She was supposed to help me make wedding invitations and hand write the addresses over a glass of wine, gather crap for centerpieces, go the menu tasting with us, laugh at the horrible presents we didn’t register for but will inevitably receive, and complain about my mother-in-law to, even though I love James’ mom, but there’s bound to be something. 
Mom would hate this right now; everyone only remembering the good, as though she were perfect. Yes, she got mad at us like any parent does. But I honestly can count on one hand the number of times she ever yelled at Kim or me. As far as mothers go, she was pretty close to perfect. She was perfect for me. Now that she’s gone I regret never asking her about her parenting philosophy, but when I reflect on our relationship it’s evident in her actions. She never nagged about homework, never forced chores on us, and never asked anything except to bring whatever was on the stairs up to bedrooms each day and to eat vegetables, but somehow I turned out ok. I know there were many times I disappointed her or made her sad, but she never yelled, lectured, held a grudge, broke down, nothing; just showed unconditional love.
The lessons she has taught me are small, daily things that will stay with me forever and my own children will probably carry with them. Always be kind to others, accept people where they’re at, help when you can, clean a little each day so it doesn’t build up, don’t nag (I am really working hard on this James, I swear), sacrifice dinner and a movie so you don’t have to pay someone else to raise your kids because no one will ever do it as good as you, clean while you cook, don’t use the dishcloth on the floor and put it back in the dish tub. While there’s nothing earth shattering about these lessons, I live them every day, so each time I have dinner cleaned up before we even eat I will remember her; when I am stressed because company is coming and I am forcing myself to wash the sheets I will remember her; and when I am home raising kids feeling guilty because I should be working to help pay off our student loans and mortgage, I will remember her.
 As I’ve grown older I have come to understand there is no love like a mother’s love. Had mom left us 4 years ago, I’m not sure it would have had the same effect, but I know when I have my own children I will understand a mother’s love even more and feel her loss even more. I can’t believe how lucky and blessed I was to have her as my mother. I thank God for picking her to be my mom.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Is this Real Life?

First the good news. I have had 2 internship offers, both at nice schools close by. I am going to accept the position at the closest, plus the counseling department seems a bit more organized than the other.

Now, on to the meat and potatoes. Tomorrow morning I will wake up and drive to Michigan for my mother's memorial service. This past week has been strange. I took my bereavement days, but have been attending classes in the evenings. All of my professors are aware of the situation and have been very supportive. It is strange because I have not really felt super sad all week. Some people might not admit this to the world, but I think we're going for transparency on this blog, right? I have had sad moments, like when I was writing my piece for the memorial, or when I started thinking about how I will soon forget what my mom's voice sounded like, or how her hands felt, or her laugh. But for the most part, my days have been somewhat emotionless. Am I coldhearted? Am I not processing, grieving, or delusional? I don't know, but I'm trying to not psych myself out over it. It is very strange when people ask me, "How are you doing?" and I say, "ok" and try to squeeze out emotions that they may be expecting. I am trying to make them feel better and give them what they want. Huh? Whaat? It is the same thing with the engagement. I am really happy and excited, but right now I can't muster up the enthusiasm that people seem to expect from a newly engaged gal. I feel like I am constantly trying to fake emotions to make other people happy. What is this called? Honestly, I kind of  just want people to leave me alone. On the other hand, I wonder why some friends haven't tried to contact me and really, really appreciate those who have. So, don't take any of this to heart friends!

I do know that I am grieving, my body is telling me. I have never had so much tension in my back and shoulders. I sleep alright, feel drained sometimes, and really driven to get school work and house work done. 

I often find myself thinking, "Is this real life? Is this my life?". It is probably time to make an appointment with the counseling center at school, after all, it's only five dollars.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hiatus No More

The blog has been on quite the hiatus, not for lack of new experiences, but in attempts for it to not become depressing and a chore to read. Although writing can be quite therapeutic and provide catharsis for many, myself included, I just haven't felt like sharing with "the world", i.e. my 9 "followers". I have been writing though, in my personal journal, on loose leaf pieces of paper, and for mom's memorial.

Here are the quick updates:
  • Came back from San Clemente
  • Started classes
  • Sent out resumes for internship
  • Got Engaged Friday, January 7, 2011
  • Bought a wedding dress
  • Mom passed away January 22, 2011
The more I think about it, the more I feel ready to start processing her passing, and writing. If it is too sad, or not fun for you to read, then don't. When I look at the Top 10 Reasons I Started This Blog I remember the blog is not really for other people, rather to provide self reflection and preserve memories. So, be prepared for some not always fun posts in the future.

So this Thursday, I am thankful to have some type of outlet for my own grief. I am thankful for my family and friends who are so supportive and understanding. I haven't called many of you back, because I just don't feel like talking. I'm sorry. I will soon, I promise.