Monday, December 31, 2012

Check Up On It

It's the last day of 2012! Errybody's status is rocking info about the SUPER SICK party they're attending and I am loving the vibes that come each year on today and tomorrow's date. There is something wonderful about celebrating a fresh start. About starting clean. About starting over. About trying again. (And who can resist a blog post with a title taken from this Beyonce song?!)
This year, on January 1st I made a list of 5 New Year's Resolutions or goals for the following 365 days. Since today is the last day of the year, I wanted to look back and see how I did. (Can you see now how I'm very goal-oriented? Love those lists.) Looking back, there were times I lost focus, and times where I definitely did the opposite of what I wanted to do, but I am generally happy with what I set out to do and how I worked at my goals. Let's review:

Goal #1: Listen to my own body.
Goal #2: Stay Open.
Goal #3: Practice the best kind of love.
Goal #4: Be brave.
Goal #5: Cut myself some slack.

I would say I failed miserably on Goal #1, except for the fact that I have come lightyears in this category from the dismal food and sleep habits I employed in college. I still have a ways to go, as I often sleepwalk into school after staying up too late the night before, and the fact that I go into hibernation mode when it gets cold outside needs addressing. Goals #2 and 4 are those that I am most proud of. I've stayed really open minded and (I think) brave with my application process, acceptance, and work through Teach For America as well as my move to the city of Chicago. I didn't know where or how (or if) I'd ever find good new friends after my graduation dispersed those closest to me, but God definitely showed me his providence yet again in that area. Goals #3 and 5 also showed a lot of improvement, but are things that I need to continue to work on. Learning to love others above myself and learning to not be so hard on myself are two areas that always need work for me. But hey, it's good for me to realize that I'm inching along with a lot of help from God and others.

It's important to me that I continue to do this kind of stuff. A lot of people see resolutions as somewhat silly and shallow, but to me they are really important "north stars" that keep me headed in the right direction. I like the person I am today so much more than the person I used to be. When I think back to freshman-in-college Anna, I almost laugh at the self-importance I touted around. Let's keep moving forward, shall we? Tomorrow will feature a new post with my goals for 2013...hopefully I get to talk with some of you about your goals too!

And since I love Zooey and you, here is another re-post of her beautiful voice singing a song perfect for tonight. I'm currently in Cali with a college friend reunion and very much looking forward to waking up with a fresh outlook on 1/1/2013. Cheers!


Friday, December 28, 2012

Notes of a TFA-er: Halfway.

I've been waiting to say I'm halfway done with my first year of teaching (probably since my first day of teaching). Well, here it is: I'm halfway done with my first year! 

I can honestly tell you that this is the hardest thing I've ever done. It's been full of stress, frustration, a few failures, and a LOT of work. Between two classrooms, two co-teachers, two different groups of challenging 7 and 8-year-olds, new cultural norms, standardized test pressures, behavior management issues, home life challenges, grad school classes, and all the while facing the idea of becoming a teacher on the fly, I think it's fair to say that these past six months have been crazy for me. There were nights where I did not know how I would get up the next morning and do it all over again. I'm sure there will still be nights like that to come. I still do not feel like I'm a good teacher. This is not false modesty. It's honesty. I think I've come a long way since August 1st and will still keep (hopefully!) improving.


But. These past months of my new life have also been wonderful. The first half of this year has introduced me to an amazing opportunity to push myself, lean on God for each day, and learn about and from amazingly wonderful people I've never met before. I've made new friends, met new people, gone on new adventures, and had some great reunions with old friends. I get to live in a beautiful apartment in a beautiful city full of beautiful people. How lucky am I?

And, lest you still be tempted to look at me with approving pity in your eyes for the valiant sacrifice you think I am making, let me ask you a question: If this is the hardest thing I've ever done, is that a problem with my job or a problem with me, or even more: a problem with our American society? Don't get me wrong: I appreciate the support, prayers, and friendship so many people have given me. I do believe doing Teach For America has made me a tougher person, and has required of me a great deal of courage and perseverance. But this is my first 5 months in this cultural climate. I drive there in the morning, drive home at night, and still get to enjoy my education, family background, steady job, and sense of self. My kids live in this. They are SEVEN and EIGHT years old and live in the same environment that throws a vaguely (haha) competent, well-adjusted, and adequately intelligent college graduate into a whirlwind.  While to me it is a struggle, to my kids it is just another day. They don't drive away to their "real" lives at the end of the day and they don't pat themselves on the back for making it halfway through their second grade year. This isn't the hardest thing they've ever faced in their lives. To them, it is just life. And they have to deal with it. They have to hang in there. To me, that is really impressive. And brave.

This is what has struck me very strongly in this whole thing,  and we need a lot more than quasi-adequate teachers like me to spend time, talent, and passion on helping the situation. As I continue into the second half of this year I'm going to try to put myself in situations where I'm listening more than yelling, slowing down to understand more than rushing to move on, and loving more than controlling. My kids deserve it. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

To and Fro

The past ten days have been a whirlwind of goodness, busy-ness (someone please cue me in on the proper spelling of the word that means the essence of being busy), and familyness. I finished up my last week of teaching in December (PRAISE!) and have officially enjoyed 4 days of my Christmas break...which by the way...the thing about Christmas break... that it is awesome. Tomorrow I jet off to California to visit my dear friend Lauren (!!!!!!) for 6 days and am spending today catching up with some old friends, packing, and soaking up the last bit of Wisconsin on this break. On Friday the 21st, I drove straight up to Wisconsin from my school, only to drive back down to Chicago on Saturday the 22nd for family activities, only to drive back up to Wisconsin on the 24th for MORE family activities. Dang. Here is a chronology of pictures to tell you what I've been up to these past few days free from school and obligation.

The Morning Message (a daily tradition) last Thursday. So close to break! 
These came on Tuesday to my classroom on my lunch break. Gawgeous.
Home sweet home. Alex thought I looked J Crew worthy in my glasses.

Was going through papers to grade and found this gem.
Every year we go to the Ritsmans' house on Christmas Eve to play
an epic game of Risk. I stockpiled armies up in Siberia but I think
they got too chilly and didn't serve me well. 
A gift of a bundt pan and ingredients. I think
my mother is trying to send me a message. 
From my parents. 
You know you're in Wisconsin when Brandy and Milk combine for
a Christmas cocktail. Nutmeg on top made it delish.
SO. GOOD. I cried. 
This was in the foreward to the new book I'm reading, The Promise by
Chaim Potok. It is great so far. This is why books are so important.
My new favorite shirt. 
This poster was found while at a truck stop for breakfast.
There are no words. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Suh-currity! Suh-currity!

This weekend was fabulous. It just was. Friday night started it off with a low-key, wonderful reunion with two of my favorite people. Hannah and Emily, currently seniors at Trinity, were quickly adopted into our class our sophomore and their freshman year. We love the people in the class below us, and people like these ladies are why. When we had our house senior year, Emily and Hannah were fixtures on the weekends. What I would give to wake up one more Sunday morning in that house to see them there ready to head to church with us followed by a trip to Chipotle. They are both adventurers to the max and I love that about them both. Hannah will be in Kenya, biking across the country, then off to teach children somewhere cool. Emily is going places as well, whether that's abroad or somewhere cool here in the states as a social working super hero. It's awesome to have friends that inspire you.

at Pilsen Vintage and Thrift on 18th.
We walked around Pilsen and checked out a few thrift stores. There are the most adorable vintage and thrift stores near my apartment. It all coordinates with the artsy little community feel we've got going on down here on 18th street. I love my neighborhood. We strolled around and ended the night at Simone's, my favorite place in the area to take visiting friends.

I wouldn't be walking around my neighborhood alone at night in the dark (...I wouldn't be walking around anywhere alone at night in the dark...) but one very concerned citizen stopped to chat with us three girls as we were walking to Simone's after our thrift store excursions. He hit the brakes on his bike very abruptly to tell us that...and I quote..."EVERYONE IS GETTING SHOT AROUND HERE. STOP WALKING AROUND." Thanks brah. Lemme quick call suh-currity. Needless to say, I did not heed his warning because he himself was biking alone in this neighborhood he called a war zone. Well, Pilsen might not be everyone's favorite, but I love going with friends to enjoy its thrift stores and bars with sweet potato french fry appetizers. Naysayers should just keep on biking north.

(And for my concerned family, it's not that bad. Yes, you shouldn't be stupid about it and remember to employ the Brian-Gesch-patented Situational Awareness at all times. But, no, everyone is NOT getting shot around here. For example, me.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Peace Out

On Friday night, my girl Karley Mae came to my apartment for some downtown shopping, hot-chocolate-sipping, and general soak-up-the-Christmasness-of-the-city fun. I love nights like this because we didn't need a plan, we simply went with it and had an awesome time just doing whatever, buying gifts and trinkets at random stores for others and ourselves. Karley is such a special person to me because she knows me, the real me. It is such a relief for me to be around her.

I was thinking about this yesterday, after she left, and was trying to figure out why I had such a fun time on a Friday night meandering around doing "nothing" with my best friend. It was the best Friday night I've had in awhile. It's not that she is exactly like me, agrees with everything I say, and therefore we get along. She is a completely different person than me. We disagree. We have different strengths, styles, tastes, interests, talents, and personalities. We don't gravitate towards the same things. But somehow we speak the same language. I've got her back, and she's got mine. And when I fumble up my words in an explanation of something I just said, she's right there nodding her head. She gets it.

True friendship. Yes. 
Maybe that's what makes friendship and relationships work. Maybe we don't need to be the same, we just need to be understood. 

I think it was an Oscar Wilde quote that said something about how people just need to be loved, not understood. Well...I slightly disagree. A lot of loving people happens in the pursuit of understanding. Not that you can ever completely understand anyone (that's the fun of continually getting to know anybody), but I think that a big part of loving somebody is committing to patiently working to try anyway. To try to understand. I can immediately think of those people who have patiently put in the time for my sake, and I know without a doubt I can truly be myself around them. The patient people are also the people that I trust. I don't think that's a coincidence. 

I'm one of those personalities that likes to relate to people. This makes meeting new friends and making connections tons of fun and actually really exciting. This also means that, when I'm with someone who understands me already, I have an unbelievable sense of peace that I didn't even know I was missing. It's easy to get hyper, wound-up, and flighty when you're spending your weeks running around and talking to parents of your students, trying to be professional with your bosses and co-workers, and in other situations fresh out of college where you meet new people and need to represent yourself at a new work, church, and life. When all that is taken away and I'm with someone who doesn't need the introductions and first impressions and friendliest version of myself, I realize what a peace that really is, especially at a time in my life when it's hard to feel peaceful about almost anything. It's a huge opportunity to exhale. I think we all want and need people like that. Those people are becoming more and more important to me.

This is something I want to do. I want to allow people to feel this peace to be themselves around me.  I'd like to put in the time to try and understand others on their own terms and let them feel free from the hyper runaround of making a good impression. To feel free to not always make connections and relate and be alike, but to be who they are as an original. To give them a chance to calm down and just beThat's an amazing gift to give someone. I think instead of Starbucks cards, clothes, and books these days, I could stand to invest in giving gifts like that.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


One time on Seinfeld they referred to barfing as "refunding." I thought that was a nice way to put it.

Here's one aspect of teaching that I never thought would come naturally to me, but I'm dealing with it more maturely than I expected.

I don't know what it is with all you 7 and 8-year-olds, but you guys barf a lot. 

Today, my kid D just let it fly during Writing Workshop all over himself, his chair, and the floor and stared at me like I was his mom or something. Like I was his person! Like I had to be the one to take action!

In the past, I might have run away screaming or more likely just vomited myself out of pure grossed-outedness. But somehow God has decided to develop the nurturing gene that I somehow have way deep down in my soul and gave me the strength to go over there, clean him up, and help him to the garbage can. It's happened three times this week in my classroom and I've seen it 3 times in the halls/recess areas in the past two days.

I think the reason for my unexpected compassion in these gross situations is that I know from experience that the second I throw up my immediate thought is, "WHERE IS MY MOTHER?!" as if she is going to come in and clean me up and make me toast while I watch The Price is Right on the couch. So I can understand the tendency to look around the room as a second grader when you refund your lunch and to immediately look for the closest thing that looks like your mom. I mean, I look nothing like my kids' moms, but I am older than them and I am a female. Close enough. 

Props to my mom for putting up with my crybaby self whenever I barf. Heck, props to ALL THE MOMS. One day, if I join your ranks, I'll be thankful for D who saw me as qualified to help his poor self out.

Onward and upward. Hopefully my naming today Throw-up Thursday isn't prophetic for the rest of the year. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

So Happy Together

Sam. This chick's necklace game is always killer.  
On Saturday night I went downtown for Teach For America's Holiday party. We got to get all gussied up to hit up Macy's downtown on the ninth floor. Pretty fancy schmancy. We hung out, had drinks, danced, and just enjoyed being together again. I realize how much impact these people had on my life in such a short time when we get nights together like this. Since I'm the only Teach For America person at my school, I soak up any chance I get to be with those who are doing this crazy thing alongside of me in Chicago. Love them to pieces. Great way to start off the holiday cheer. 

Julia, Colin, and Sam. Amazing teachers and human beings. We all
taught at the same school for summer school Institute. 
Mackenzie. Runner and fungirl extraordinaire. These are my new glasses, BTW. 
Uh oh they're picking me up. This turned out badly. 
Bathroom pic after a night of dancing and fun. I'd say it was a holiday party success. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Stuff Students Say: November Edition

Yet another installment of some of my favorite things that my kids say on a daily basis. These are the ones I happened to remember to write down. They are very confused with how old I am. Some of them think I'm 18, some of them think I'm 30. And then they are also perplexed as to why I don't have a husband and kids at my ripe old age of 23. I think they'd fit right in at Trinity :) 

If I was president I would help the kids and help the homeless people. (This made me cry.)

If I was president I would stop the violence. Like all the fighting. (And again.)

If I was elected president I would sit up in my office and just eat cake. All day long. Eating Cake. (This made me laugh.)

Every time I burp it smells like egg.

I got a pit bull and I can't wait to cuddle him up all afternoon. 

(A limo passes by on the street)
Look! It's Michelle Obama!

Do you know that if you lick the carpet you'll get a fuzzy tongue?

Student: Ms. Gesch you got a husband. You do. I KNOW it.
Me: No, I actually don't. You really think I have one?
Student: Ohhhhhh. No. Ok so Ms. Gesch then why don't you got no kids?

Ms. Gesch? When you die and go in the sky can you still breathe? What I'm meaning is when you with God do you still breathe? Or just not really? 

Thursday, November 29, 2012


April, myself, and Lizard. Always surrounded by blondies. 
Can NOT believe I haven't put up any picture of my beloved Karyn Koopmans' wedding that occurred at the beginning of this month. I love this girl with all my heart and am so happy that she is blissfully living in holy matrimony right now. She married a great guy named Shane Navratil, so I guess that would make her Karyn Navratil now. RIP Koops. You were a great nickname for so long. I think my dad won't ever stop calling her Koops. Also, in the tradition of BENNIFER and BRANISTON and BRANGELINA, their celebrity nickname would be SHARYN. Baller. 

Cousins :) 
While a lot of people roll their eyes or look at me in shock and awe when I say I had 12 weddings from April to November this year, I actually didn't mind it. I love weddings. I love love. So while, yes, it was pretty dang expensive to attend all these special days, it was also really special to be there for the biggest day of my friends' lives together. This is the third time this wedding season I've been asked to be a bridesmaid, and this one really felt special. Karyn and I have almost completely opposite personalities naturally (just ask her what she thought of me on first impression freshman year...oops), but her friendship is one that I value so much. She is real, speaks the truth, and isn't afraid to cut through the nonsense that can build up in a world where nobody wants to offend one another or have real opinions. She is also intelligent, reserved, caring, low-key, and thoughtful. There are so many things about her that I wish I had more of in myself. Isn't that funny? How you can bond with people exactly like you and almost nothing like you just the same? I think it's important to have friends of both persuasions.

Trinity crew!
Now I've rambled about Karyn because I know her so well, but I must also point out the catch that she married. Shane is an awesome, principled, chill guy. Perfect for Karyn. They just click together. And they're handling this adulthood transition better than almost anyone I know. Heck, they probably have like a 401k started or something. That mature. Shane, I have three pieces of advice for you in order to have a life of happiness with Karyn: 1) Root for the Cleveland Browns 2) Memorize While You Were Sleeping line by line and 3) Keep the main thing (your faith) the main thing in your life. That's Karyn in a nutshell. 

freshly married
Mel and me
Thomas was nice enough to go with me as my date to this shindig.
Doesn't he look thrilled? 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Muchas Gracias

Since this (gloriously long) weekend is (so tragically) over, I thought it would be good for me to reflect on what I'm thankful for. I think one day when I establish my own family traditions, I totally am going to make my kids go around the table and say what they're thankful for at dinner time. (But that also implies that I learn to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner...which is not very we'll see how this whole family tradition thing works out for me.) I obviously am deeply thankful for my job that allows me to work meaningfully (and make money in da bayunk hayyy), my church that has stepped up and become a big part of my life here in Chicago, and other big life things like people and God and nature. But there's also the little things too. Here's my list of thankfulness in November of 2012.

This is the truth. 
I am thankful for...

1. Netflix. I found a random adorable movie on Saturday night and continue to love watching Portlandia, Parks and Rec, and Arrested Development to my little heart's delight.

2. Survival. I have made it past Thanksgiving break in my first year with Teach For America, and for that I am really proud but also really (mainly) grateful to God for getting me to this point without a (total) nervous breakdown. 

3. The ability to braid my hair. Let me tell you something people. Your appearance takes a major hit when you start teaching. I used to generally look presentable whilst out in public. Not so anymore. Just about every day I let my hair air dry into a knotty mess, my face is greasy and gross, my clothes are wrinkled, and my makeup is usually smeared because I don't see a mirror the entire day. This leaves me extremely thankful for the fact that I can braid my hot mess of a head of hair up and back into something somewhat presentable. I don't know where I'd be these days without the side braid.

4. Mott's cinnamon applesauce. Because it makes my daily lunches delicious. I don't care how immature that makes me. It's so good.

5. Roommates. They're wonderful. And they aren't teachers. Which is a fabulous fact, because it means I have somewhat of a life outside of my crazy job.

6. Mexican food. So much spicy goodness. Mexican food makes it okay to ingest copious amounts of cheese. It's hip because it's on a taco!

7. Morning radio talk shows. Each day on my 15-minute commute I hear these people call in and share their weird stories. It makes me feel really good about myself in comparison. I'm thankful for the self-esteem boost.

8. Rihanna. Because why not?

9. Tights. For making dresses that are borderline-not-okay-to-wear-to-school magically just professional enough to pass as teacher attire. Should I be admitting this? Oops.

10. Little Critter books. Because my second graders love them and the storylines are really conducive to teaching comprehension strategies. Thanks Mercer Mayer. (Same to you Mo Willems!)

11. Individual dental flossers. Who'd have thunk that these would revolutionize my mornings?! My flossing is so quick and fun now.

12. Plane tickets. Nothing brings excitement to me like a trip on a plane with a fun reunion or adventure at the other side when you land. I love having trips to look forward to. Cali, here I come!

13. Chipotle. Obviously.

14. My frat boy neighbors. For providing nightly entertainment when on their back deck which is next to my bedroom with paper-thin-walls. I feel like I've learned so much about you, my frat boy friends,  from your choice in jager to your on-again off-again relationship woes. Hang in there buddy, by the way. That one chick seems nice.

15. Moscato. Yep. Imma sip it.

Thankful birds are happy birds. 

And. I must say. I am thankful for you. YES YOU. Because even though I have no clue who reads this thing consistently or at all, it is cool that you find it worth your time to hear my ideas and take something from them. Here's a blug (a blog hug) from me to you. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012


I am thankful for good people. I am thankful for good friends.

There were more than these people here, but this was the Trinity crew that was present. 
Let me tell you a little about this group of people. They are not my college roommates, nor are they the people with whom I spent most of my weekends. These were the friends I met when I was doing things in college. These are the friends I met while participating in Residence Life activities, playing in soccer practices, acting in improv, debating in Student Association meetings, and leading in freshman orientation week. These are my kindred spirits. People who love to be involved, think critically, and have great conversations about real things. These nerds probably enjoyed attending class as much as I did. I love these people because they are open, articulate, hilarious, and original.

Liz. The hostess with the mostest. 
Let me tell you about Liz Brice. She is not a touchy person and she hates how I exploit this with my hugging/arm nudging ways. But more important, she is a friend of mankind. She loves to bring people together. So last week she hosted Friendsgiving. It was wonderful. Basically, about 30 of us came together from all different friend groups and hung out and ate like crazy at a huge potluck. (I made a big plate of truffs and they went over really well. Click the link for a recipe.) It was a great time.

Jon, Jacqui, Sasha, and Cat. 
My new friend Luke. Sorry for cutting off your face, but this picture looked artsy so I kept it! 
The chalkboard that greeted us. 
Sam and Jon. You've met Sam before. If you haven't, go scroll down a few posts. 
Going through the line. Yumm.
Little talks. 
This is one tradition that I hope I always uphold: getting together with good people, being thankful for them, talking about real things, and eating lots and lots of good food. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

No-Shame November

Some people do No-Shave November. I'd rather not be disgusting and I'm not a hippie girl, so I do No-Shame November instead. Inspired by my friend Liz, I did a post to start my little tradition last year and it was really refreshing to do. It helped change my mindset in some ways. Basically, I want to identify one thing that is true about myself that I am ashamed to admit and get it out there. Then I want to work on it. 

So here we go. Ready? I'm ashamed that...

Sometimes I want to quit Teach For America. Sometimes I want to give up. 


Is that terrible to say? Somewhere, Wendy Kopp just furrowed her brow and pursed her lips in judgement. There are times when people ask me what I'm up to these days, and I tell them. I say I'm doing Teach For America in Chicago in a second-grade classroom. That's usually very well received and accompanied by some sort of vague encouragement that I'm some sort of really good person for doing this. (Hint: I'm no better than anyone!) I believe my motivations for joining TFA were and are still pure, and I  want to continue to do this shindig for the good of my kids who are totally worth it and who deserve better than what the system is giving them. But I have to be truthful. It's really hard. I know that's obvious and lame to say, and I knew it would be hard all along, but I just want to be honest about what's going on.

No. I'm not going to quit. I'll stick it out. But what makes me ashamed is that I find myself wanting to quit sometimes. There are those days when I'm inspired and motivated and fired up about the world's problems and am ready to roll up my sleeves and GET TO WORK to start solving this whole thing. But that's not how I feel all the time. And that sucks. I hate that I feel that way sometimes.

I'm ashamed to admit the jealousy I feel towards those who aren't doing this crazy teaching thing. I'm jealous of those with cushy office jobs, part-time filler jobs, more semesters of school or grad school, and living arrangements with their parents. Who get to enjoy their Sunday afternoons. Who get to use the bathroom whenever they need to use the bathroom.

I'm ashamed to admit that I still feel like a weak sauce teacher sometimes. Like I am still trying to get the hang of it and it's been almost four months.

I'm ashamed that I don't always feel like the confident, courageous, compassionate person that signed up to do this. I know I still am that person and always will be, but when one student is flailing in circles on the floor, another is yelling a cuss word at 392 decibels, another is crying because someone kicked her on purpose under the table, and another just threw up, I tend to forget that person.


Honestly, I think it's good to fail a little bit. It's shown me what a huge problem our country (and our city in particular) has on its hands with this batty school system. It's shown me the intense work, talent, and passion that has to be invested in the problem to start making some changes. It's shown me that I have to work at things and that most great great things come at the end of difficult roads. This experience is already making the point plain as day that I can't rely on myself to solve everything. I alone am not going to be the answer to any problems. But what can I do?

I can show up. I can do my part. I can be one person who makes that choice, whether I'm feeling like it or not, to care. I can choose to be patient. I can choose to work hard. I can choose to celebrate the small good things instead of vent about the bad things. I can choose to keep at it. And with God's help I can maybe start to chip away at some things.

I'm resolving to fight off those thoughts of quitting, because at this point it's not an option for me or my kids. I have it on my mind to love my kids more, pray for my kids more, and listen to my kids more. I have it on my mind to never never never give up. As we go into Thanksgiving break, this is what's on my mind. There's no shame in that. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Rents

So I like my parents.

The amazing sunset over my backyard on Saturday.

I'm getting to be at that stage. I've always loved my parents. Do not get me wrong. I consider myself one of the luckiest people alive with parents like mine. There are a lot of humans in this world who have sub-par parents and mine are definitely better than par. Like way better. They are so intelligent, creative, funny, friendly, and wise. While I've always loved them, I didn't always like them. I had those stupid times where I felt like they were too strict, too uptight, and too controlling, especially in high school. But somehow in the past few years I got to the point where I not only love them, but I like them. I really do. I'll be writing more about them in the future I'm sure. Lately I just have been feeling like I have cool parents.

Dad texting me from his tree stand while he was
deer hunting. Notice how he signs his name at the
end of every text message he sends me. 

I was home for about 36 hours this weekend. I had the opportunity to get my oil changed at home with our trusted go-to mechanics, which is good, because I found out that my car had virtually no oil in it. That clicking sound that was going on in my car for the last two weeks? Yeah, that was the engine telling me that some bad stuff could seriously go down at any moment. Thankfully I made it home safely and got Remy all fixed up and ready for this winter. Other than that, I spent my time at home, making food, shopping with my mom, and going out to eat with my parents on Saturday night. Back in the day three years ago I'd burst through the door, drop my stuff on the ground, and head out with my friends. It's true that I just don't have as many friends at home anymore, but I think it's also that I really miss my mom and dad these days. I miss home and the safety, feeling of belonging, and simple Wisconsin goodness that they symbolize to me.

My mom officially has more of a social
life than I do. Good work Kathy. 
I often write in this nostalgic blurriness every time I return after a quick trip home, but that's just the great feeling I get from sleeping in and having a simple day back in Cedar Grove. Beautiful trees, open land, no neighbors, the smell of farm, fresh air, and perfect starry nights. I really love Chicago, but getting home for a bit is so so sweet. It's sweet because of all that good stuff about rural Wisconsin in the fall, but it's mainly because of the two people who live there.

Saturday, November 17, 2012



Two weeks ago I got to accompany Rudi, Steph, and family to a pumpkin patch for some memory making. SoyJoy had some issues with pronouncing the word pumpkin. And kept saying punkin. Then I stopped trying to teach her how to say it because it sounded cuter her way anyway. Sawyer and Xander each got to choose a pumpkin and, as a special treat, we all got Qdoba afterwards. You know, pumpkins and Mexican food. The classic American family's fall festivities. If I someday have kids as half as cute as these I'll be a happy person. 



Saturday, November 10, 2012

Girls Who Run

Last Sunday morning I had the opportunity to feel amazing. I highly recommend taking any opportunity you can to feel amazing. It is fun. I ran my first 15k in the Hot Chocolate Run in downtown Chicago, which translates to about 9.3 miles! In July, just after I had decided to live with her, Kristin sent me an e-mail saying, "Hey Anna! Wanna run this with me in November?" At that point, I was like, pssshhhh, November? That's like eight million years away. Sure thing I'll sign up!" Then it was October and I was like, "AHHHH CRAP." But it actually turned out to be wonderful! I trained enough to keep up with Kristin the whole time and we kept a pace of about 9:35 per mile. The atmosphere was so positive and so inspirational, not to mention the delicious chocolate we got after crossing the finish line. I felt SO STINKING GOOD about accomplishing my goal and am now currently looking for a half marathon to do in the spring next year.

One fun element about Sunday was the people-watching I got to do for the hour and a half we were running. I don't run with headphones, so I did some hilarious eavesdropping on different types of people, particularly female runners. I've noticed that girls like to talk while they run (or maybe we all just like to talk). I decided that there are a few types of girls who run.

Kristin and I after the race, waiting for our train back to the apartment. 
1. The Divorcees. Don't mess with these ladies. They ran the entire 9.3 miles while bitching talking about their situations and never ran out of breath somehow. The rage that fueled their hatred for their ex-husbands must have spilled over to keep those lungs pumping as well. From mile 5-6 I learned about one who had to deal with quite the loser of an ex-husband who wouldn't show up to court dates. C'mon dude! Show up to the court dates...then I won't have to hear about it during a fun 15k!

2. The Hardcore 6-packers. These girls have chinese letters tattooed on their ribs and are running in tank tops in November. They were talking about things like cross-training and protein supplements. The triceps on these broads would probably not make it through airport security. I was terrified.

3. The Get-back-in-the-game-new-moms. I love this type of girl who runs. They are happy, working hard, and really proud of themselves. Many of their families were cheering them on with signs that said things like KEEP IT UP MOM! WE LOVE YOU! It was adorable and wonderful. You go girls!

4. The Type-A Workaholics. These girls were simply crossing this 15k off of their list of 6,782 things to do that Sunday. One of them had her bluetooth in her ear and was talking on that as she went, and another explained to her running partner about how her promotion offers her a greater opportunity to steer the company the way she'd like it to go. Meanwhile, I'm still learning what HMO means. #freshcollegegraduateproblems

5. The Encouraging-best-friends. I almost laughed out loud at this one pair of girls. They basically were talking themselves into believing that they were rocking the race as they were walking along the side of the path as everyone else ran past. An actual quote: "Okay, I feel great right now, and I'm totally not quitting, but I need to slow down." To which the other says, "Oh I totally know. The last three miles are all your spirit." Ha.

6. The Sorority Girls. There has yet to be a social group that fascinates me more than the sorority girl. They are some of the nicest, highly motivated, energetic people I've met. These were the BESTIES who were dressed like TWINSIES to run; they were playing the new T-Swift album from their phone as they both sang along and zoomed past us, all lululemoned out, ponytails swinging simultaneously in sync with the girly beat. Here's to you, Zeta Phi Gamma Deltas.

7. The Freshly-post-college-girls. Kristin and I obviously fell into this category. There just seemed to be tons of young twenty-somethings out there who needed a pick-me-up in November to keep the joy, fitness, and inspiration going. The race definitely did all of those three things for me. I think I'm hooked. 13.1 miles, you're next. 

(And then you have guys who run. They're not chatting, singing Taylor Swift, or talking about their exes. They're just running. What a novel idea.)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Beeeeeee Yourself

(The title was meant to harken back to my Disney days. Oh wait...I still am in my Disney days. Either way, click the link and you'll find one of my favorite scenes of all time.)

"You DOIN' too much!"

That means that you're trying too hard. My second graders say that to each other when they need to settle down. When they need to stop trying to get attention by doing what they think is cool. To give you a frame of reference, a perfect example is my student named M. M takes any opportunity to yell gospel music, break into the MC hammer dance, scream, throw a fit, steal things, throw things, whatever it may be, in order to get the spotlight. He is a happy kid and gets along with others, but he just needs to feel that approval from others in the form of being the performer. He's a crowd pleaser by nature (I know how he feels). But my one girl, T, tells it like it is. She calls him out every time when he is being ridiculous and trying too hard. She throws up her hands and says, "M! You DOIN' too much!" T is on to something here. My children are wise beyond their 7 years. It's something that I'm still trying to get straight myself. They have taught me this lesson:

Be yourself. 

Stop trying too hard. Stop busying yourself with impressing everyone. The best attention you can get does not come from being a pleaser but comes from being yourself. I come from a family of people who are very good at being themselves. To be a Gesch means something very particular to a lot of folks because we are a family full of people who are unashamedly weird, smart, talkative, and eccentric. And they live it out on a daily basis, whether it is popular or not. My second graders have this same sense of self. They are loud, emotional, impulsive, happy, sassy, and confident. I think it's all in the secret of being real with yourself and knowing who you are. Find that one thing that makes you YOU and DO THAT on a daily basis. I'm not speaking in terms of a career or job or calling as many people from my church say, but I'm talking about your YOU-ness. Your personality. Your vibe. Everyone's got their own stamp. Their own flavor. Are you sarcastic, whimsical, unconventional, loud, understated, or offbeat? Be those things. Are you weird? BE WEIRD.

I was addicted to Calvin and Hobbes from 2nd-8th grade. One of the things that
always drew me to love Calvin's character is that he is always completely himself. 
It's obvious when you try too hard to deny your own weirdness or other flavors; it's clear when you try to make your brand of YOU fit into someone else's. I think girls in particular (maybe guys are too...I just don't understand their brains to be honest) are prone to this for some reason, myself certainly included. I know a girl who so painfully cares about talking and acting cool to adapt to the particular party, people, wedding, or workplace that she finds herself around. A lot of people do this. These are the kind of people who all dress alike, talk alike, and really want the whole world to know on a daily basis what they are saying and wearing so we can all be jealous of them on twittagrambooktrest (In case you're wondering, that's the combination of twitter, instagram, facebook, and pinterest that I think will happen when they all merge to form one mega time-sucking site to consolidate our attention in one place. You heard it here first). Then, people who check these things are supposed to believe that this is "normal" and be jealous. That works for the short term popularity boost, but in the long term I think we can all agree that just totally isn't cool. Or interesting. At all. Who wants that? And how exhausting for people to try that hard? I just want to say: "Hey. You. You DOIN' too much. Cut it out." And let me say, I am totally guilty of this. I love social media too much and love connecting to people out there who are doing interesting things with their lives. I always have to check myself to make sure the things I do are out of the joy of making connections and not out of the thrill of seeking approval, as is the pitfall of all this social media stuff. This is why my second graders are so good for me in ways like this. 

Ellen Page. A celebrity very good, in my opinion, at being herself in a world were most people aren't. 
When they start to walk, talk, and do things like themselves, that's when people become cool. I think I'm getting a little bit better at this as I get older and out of the high school and college contexts. Or at least I'm trying to bet better at this; I'm trying to find my voice and embrace it. One of the perfect examples of this is my friend Ann Marie. The girl is so gorgeous and could very easily play into that "stupid-hot-chick" thing if she wanted to, the way that so many pretty people do. But instead, she unashamedly loves to go fishing, works her tail off for her masters degree, fixates on random foods (Salty Stix all through high school!), has no concern over climbing up a social ladder, constantly engages in extremely intelligent conversation, and is weird and silly all at the same time. To me, that's cool. And you know what? I'm an optimistic, sarcastic, smart, loving, adventurous, and extroverted person. That's who I am, and that's how I think I'll always be. The hip apathetic-laid-back-super-chill-understated thing just won't ever totally be me. If it is you, that's great! Then you do that thing, and I'll do my thing. I think one of the biggest compliments someone could give me as I grow up and do this whole adult-life thing would be to tell me that I'm very Anna-y these days, that I'm really myself. I'm always in a struggle to just embrace who I am and being THAT to the best of my ability. As I keep working on it, I hope you do too. Find your brand of weird and make it cool. Find the things that make you YOU and do them (this blog is one of my "things"). Set yourself free from figuring out what people want, relax, and beee yourself. Quit doin' too much.