Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I like this little theme for a blogpost and so this is my second installment of what is hopefully a fun tradition to see where I'm at in life. I'll tell you what I'm loving, reading, watching, anticipating, listening to, planning, working on, and wishing for in this very moment to get a nice little snapshot of what my life is like in October of 2012. Maybe I'll notice how I grow as time goes on with these posts, maybe I'll remain as immature as I currently am now. Who knows. But I love tracking stuff like this so here we go!


Loving: My roommates, Jen and Kristin. You can see these lovely ladies featured in previous posts about adventures to Ikea and homemade meals together. They are most of the reason why I love life in Chicago. It's amazing to me how I found, like, the best possible living situation I could have asked for. Not only is my neighborhood cool and my apartment one of my favorite places ever, I get to live here with cool, independent, smart, thoughtful, funny people. And for some reason they don't hate me. I am by far the messiest of the three of us, clunk around at really early hours in the morning due to my clumsiness and lack of morning consciousness, and play loud music in my room when I clean it. Yet somehow they are still nice and cool and want to be friends. 

Reading: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? By Mindy Kaling. Oh my goodness people. I want to be best friends with this chick. She is hilarious and inspirational. She details how she got to be a writer/director/producer/actress on The Office and more. She has wonderful insights on friendships, high school, comedy, and career. She, like myself, is a big list maker, which I obviously appreciate (as I write this on a blog post in a list format). I know I'm sounding like a gushing fangirl, but just wait until you get me talking about Taylor Swift in a few seconds. 

Watching: Portlandia. It is awesome. Especially when your neighborhood is too hipster for its own good. Sometimes I want to walk outside in Pilsen and slap some people across the face, yelling, "YOU AREN'T THAT COOL!" but then I remember that I have a side of me that really digs the hipster vibe and that I, too, would also dress to look homeless if I could afford the expensive designer clothes that they buy to look that way. I digress. Portlandia is a skit show making fun of this very culture. I signed up for a free month of Netflix and am really tempted to just keep it renewed. Netflix is a beautiful thing, my friends. 

Anticipating: The impending nuptials of my dear, dear friend, Karyn Koopmans. I am a bridesmaid in her wedding on Saturday and I am so excited. She is one of those friends that you know will just always be there for you no matter what happens. She also is one of those people who naturally looks like a Barbie doll with perfect skin, while you look on in your acne-ridden brunette-ness in a fit of jealousy. But then you remember how good of a friend she is and you decide you don't completely hate her for it. The best part is that she's even prettier on the inside. She will make a beautiful bride for her awesome fiance Shane. 

Listening To: Um, do I even have to say it?! OBVIOUSLY I am cycling Red, Taylor Swift's new album, on repeat at all hours, minutes, and seconds of the day. Since Taylor is only two months younger than me, I feel like we are always at the same life stage and that her songs speak right to my soul. Sorry boys, but I have one of you in mind for each Taylor Swift song I've ever heard. Sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes it's not so good. Her new album did not only not disappoint, but it made me want to just sit around and soak up her awesomeness all the time. My favorite songs are 22 (because who doesn't like breakfast at midnight?), Begin Again (because a redemptive song amidst an album of heartbreak is optimistic and hopeful and great), Stay Stay Stay (because all I want to do is sing this as a duet with someone who plays a ukelele), and my favorite, All Too Well (because I have a personal application to this song from my life that just hits the lyrics on the head so perfectly). Sing on, T Swift, sing on. 

Planning: An exciting trip that hopefully will get to happen! I'm asking for plane tickets from my parents for Christmas and California is on my mind. So is Lauren Haney. I'd like those two to come together for a week of joy during my Christmas break. Let's be honest: I need to get on an airplane soon before I go batty. That sounds terribly like a first world problem, and I suppose it definitely is. I'm just excited for dreaming about the possibility of a new adventure with an old friend. 

Working On: Psyching myself up for a 15k run on Sunday with Kristin! Yes, you read it correctly, a 15k, not a 5k. That translates to just over 9 miles. Yeesh. I ran 8 miles two Saturdays ago and 6 miles on Sunday this week, so I'm thinking I'll be okay with 9. I'm just nervous because I will be super slow at it and will end up finishing like an hour after Kristin who is super disciplined and awesome at exercising regularly. The great thing about this race is that it's a Hot Chocolate run, so at the end there is a fondu and hot chocolate bar there awaiting you to celebrate after the finish line. We'll see if I don't barf it all up. 

Wishing: For better sleep habits. As I write this, it is midnight and I teach tomorrow. I think this just boils down to prioritizing time management as an important element of my life. I tend to think that just one more thing accomplished or read or written before I go to bed won't hurt anything. And that one more thing turns into ten more things. And then I'm up at 11:30 and I figure an extra half hour spent on a blogpost about all of my current favorite things will actually be helpful to my well being, which it is, but so is a night of 9 hours of sleep. So I think that will have to be on my list of things to improve about myself. Right after the one about quitting my nasty cocaine habit.  

So there you are. Everything I'm currently up to. 'Til next time! 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Compact Car

Today, Jen (one of the roommates) and I decided to go on a small adventure out to suburbs for an IKEA run. There comes a time in every girl's life when, dang it, she just needs to purchase some place mats with a weird Swedish name! We did some damage and the apartment looks all the better for it. We got bath mats, throw pillows, candles, trays, cake pans, paring knives, a butcher's block. picture frames, and a cute lamp. We split it up, paid, and loaded the stuff into the car. This is where that sneaky store got us good.

We went back into IKEA after loading up the car and got lunch in their restaurant/dining area upstairs. After a plate full of delicious Swedish meatballs, we were ready to head back to the city and introduce our apartment to all of its new goodies. The problem, however, lies in the fact that in order to head back to the city we had to head back to our car. And in order to head back to our car we had to go out of the door and into the parking lot. And in order to go out the door and into the parking lot, IKEA forces you back through the labyrinth of home goods, storage, and linens before letting you outside. This, of course, led Jen and I to make just one more tiny purchase. Except it wasn't a tiny little purchase, it was a big fat huge purchase. On the second walkthrough we bought a picture of Paris to hang over our dining room table that is the size of an Olympic swimming pool. I, of course, convinced Jen that it totally would fit in the backseat of her car, no problem. Then we got to the car and found that it did not, in fact, fit in the back of the car with no problem. After 20 minutes of inching it back and forth, we pushed the driver and passenger seats as far forward as possible and miraculously fit our beautiful print in the back of the car. Now, Jen and I are two tall ladies. She's 5'11 and I'm 5'9. The driver's seat was so close to the dash that Jen couldn't move her leg to hit the gas pedal since her legs were too long. I had to take over the driving duties thanks to my more averagely-lengthed femurs and inched us home to unpack. As you can see below, we did succeed in getting the print back out of the backseat and up on the wall. It was a Swedish success. 

Squished up in front, with our beloved Paris in the backseat.

#legsaretoolong #tallgirlproblems
Okay we don't keep pillows on our table, but I wanted to show off my
favorite pillow that we bought. Paris is rockin' on that wall. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sweet Home Chicago

I can't believe I'm actually saying this, but this weekend was the first time Chicago really felt something like home.


Friday night I got home from parent-teacher conferences at 7:00 and the fun began. I got to go to The Second City to see their mainstage show. Honestly, this is a small dream come true in and of itself. I absolutely love Tina Fey, Steve Carrell, and others who started there and have been intrigued by improv/stand-up since my Jerry Seinfeld fangirl days as a little kid. It was absolutely hilarious. They definitely used the annoying political jokes as a crutch, but all the other more original stuff was great. Part of me wants to quit everything and do that with my life. And then I remember that I'm not that funny. And that I have a bad case of stage fright. So I'll stick with admiring and laughing at those who are.

Saturday is really when this whole love affair with Chicago set in. I woke up and my roommates were gone and had the day/apartment to myself. I had hot apple cider and toast in my pajamas and watched some netflix as I woke up. It was bliss. There I was, sitting in the apartment that I pay the rent for myself, eating food that I bought myself, enjoying a weekend off from the real adult job that I actually do myself. I know that sounds horribly narcissistic, but to finally realize that you have some note of self-sufficiency after 23 years of being a kid/student dependent on my parents to keep me alive, that felt pretty good. Let's be honest, at the first sign of car trouble I still call my dad for advice. At the first stage of planning a trip I get my mom on the phone for plane ticket tips. When I need a copy of my social security card scanned and e-mailed to whoever needs it, Lord knows my mother helps me out with that stuff to this day. But just knowing that I'm not a completely helpless brat made me feel somewhat accomplished. Like I had somehow earned the right to sit down and be lazy for two hours on a Saturday morning.

My lovely view from the couch.  
Since I made a really drastic decision this summer to run a 15k (SERIOUSLY WHAT WAS I THINKING) the first weekend of November, I thought I'd get off the couch and get a long run in when I finally had some free time in the daylight. To start things off, it was absolutely beautiful outside. Perfect 50 degree fall day. Changing leaves and all. I set out and decided to just go for a long time. That's the only plan I had. The first few blocks in my neighborhood were full of friendly waves and "good afternoons" to passersby. Very Sesame Street.

So I set out and headed downtown from my apartment and ended up on Michigan Avenue. This is where Millenium Park, The Bean, the face fountains, The Art Institute, and the weird-only-legs-statues reside. Those are a lot of my favorite touristy Chicago things, and I have often made entire special trips to downtown Chicago to enjoy those things specifically. (No, I won't ever get sick of taking pictures of myself and friends in The Bean. Sorry.) As I jogged and weaved through crowds of people who were there for these very attractions, and enjoying some people-watching as I meandered, it hit me: I'm not one of them anymore. I used to be the one planning the hassle of getting downtown, wearing "sensible" shoes for walking, backpack in tow, to see all of these Chicago attractions. Now I was just a girl who left her apartment and happened to pass these things on her Saturday morning run.

I never thought I'd have that true this is home feeling while living in the city. Looking back, I guess that's a silly notion because I lived in a city across an ocean where I didn't speak the language and I fell in love with that. I guess I just always thought I'm a hick Wisconsinite at heart and would never feel exactly right as a city girl, but I do. Maybe I'm neither. Maybe I'm both?

I've written about this once before, right as I was ready to leave Spain for home again after living abroad for four months. I'm starting to get that same feeling about Chicago, the people, the places, the food, the whole vibe. When you keep your capital-H-Home (for me, that is the Lord) with you all the time, your home travels with you and becomes wherever you go. These places you inhabit become a part of who you are. They stay with you, and you with them. It's crazy, too, because the real estate that Wisconsin, Sevilla, Trinity, and Chicago and the people that go with all of those places have staked out in my heart just makes me swell up with love for all of them so much more. You'd think that you'd spread yourself thin by reaching out to new people and new horizons, but somehow it's made my heart stretch that much bigger. That stretching is not free from growing pains, of course. I have my moments where I want to run back and start it all over, closing up the doors and claiming my spot on Main Street in Cedar Grove once and for all, but that feeling always passes to give way to a larger peace that settles in. I don't know how to even put it into words so that it makes sense.

I'm not sure how I got here to this place, but whatever it is, I'm happy to be here. And to feel that feeling here. To feel like home.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sam I am.


Last weekend I had the privilege to meet up with a dear friend. Sam has been around forever. Not really, he's only 24, but for forever to me. He went to school with me at Oostburg Christian grade school, Sheboygan County Christian High, and Trinity Christian College. So yes, we're definitely Christian school kids...but I would contest some of the cool ones. Ha.

He's seen me through the awkward years and still chooses to hang out with me, which, my friends, is the mark of a true friend. He's living in Milwaukee (which I love more and more each time I visit) and doing a cool job at an urban ecology center. Yeah, one of those smart science people. We got together for breakfast at a really cool place called Comet Cafe. I felt super hip and ate some delicious eggs. I've found that good food and good company is a combination you just can't beat.




Thursday, October 18, 2012

Little Lady

Since when did Soy Joy decide to grow up and be a real person? The chubby baby is long gone.

I guess I go through this every 6 months or so, but last weekend I was home for Alex and Heidi's Wisconsin reception to celebrate their wedding with hometown friends and I could just not believe how grown up my niece Sawyer has become. She is beautiful, funny, clumsy, weird, emotional, intelligent, stubborn, and silly all at once. I love seeing the personality that she has grown into all on her own. She dragged me over to my computer for a few minutes and wanted to take funny pictures together. My favorite part of all this is that she came up with the faces we should do; I just followed her lead. It happened super quickly, but I keep looking back on these pictures and laughing my head off at her creative little ideas for faces to make.

Maybe these 5 minutes aren't that significant to the world, but they're significant to me. It's amazing to know a little person like her.

Photo 426

Photo 420

Photo 427

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Photo 433

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Good Housekeeping

I lucked out with these roommates. Well, again, I know it's never luck, but somehow I ended up with two fabulous girls with whom to live. Kristin and Jen are nurses in Lawndale, so we all are working in the same kinds of communities. They are low-key, happy, smart, and fun. Sometimes when I get down on my life situation, I remember how I love my apartment, love my neighborhood, love this city, and love my roommates. Oh, and I love their cooking too.

We've been trying to have semi-regular meals together and each take turns making the meal. My turn is this week and I am going to make one of my mom's meals in the crock pot, but I'm kind of nervous that it won't measure up. Since Kathy is a culinary genius herself, I think I'm safe on that front. Do you ever have that self-consciousness? I do all the time. I get nervous to run with good runners, discuss politics with political science majors, talk theology with seminary students, shop with really good dressers, and cook for perfectionists in the kitchen. While in theory I should want to do all these things with the "experts" in their respective fields, I just get intimidated instead. Maybe I should just hang out with incompetent people more often to feel better about myself? I would but then I wouldn't get to eat Jen's apple crisp. So I'll stick with what I've got going on right now.

The apple crisp. It was so cinnamony and delicious




Sunday, October 14, 2012


Just had a week off from class. I watched a marathon, celebrated a bachelorette, wrote a million report card comments, did grad school homework, saw my brothers and sisters-in-law, went home, met friends in Milwaukee, and got some long runs in on some beautiful country roads.

Tomorrow I'll be back at school again. I have that feeling like I'm on the uphill climb of a rollercoaster, bracing myself for the rush that comes closer with each mechanical click of the track before I freefall over the edge.

I've gone back and forth about dreading tomorrow morning and being okay with getting back into it. Right now I'm okay with it and am embracing that "one day at a time" feeling. We'll see tomorrow when I reach that inevitable moment at 8:00 when the first student walks through the door to our room. I think I'll get the drop-in-my-stomach feeling for sure, but not without that fun adrenaline rush that always comes with it. Here we go!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Old Yeller

Taken in the impressionist museum in Paris. Keychain compliments of the one and only Karley Mae. 
The day has come. My beloved, trusty, faithful, world-traveling yellow purse has finally seen its last outing. There has rarely been a day in the last year and a half where she hasn't been by my side and safely on my shoulders, but finally last weekend the strap broke off after literally hanging on by a thread for the last two months. My mom and I bought this purse before I went abroad in the Spring of 2011, and I've been attached to it ever since. Maybe it's the memories I associate with it, maybe it's the fact that I paid only 10% of the original price for it, maybe it's the fact that it's the perfect shade of VanGogh-yellow that makes me love it so. Whatever it is, this purse and I have been through a lot together. I had to sadly purchase a new one last weekend and hope to make half as many memories with its replacement. In honor of its faithful service to carrying my wallet and chapstick for me over the last 18 months, I thought I'd share some highlights of places this purse has been. Here's to you, Old Yeller; you've served me well.  

In front of the Eiffel Tower
Walking across the Potomac on a trip to D.C. with Karyn Koops
In the middle of Nowhere, Indiana while on a roadtrip weekend
Accompanying me to weddings all summer long
Teach For America Institute this summer
Many, many, many trips to Chipotle. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

See Sam Run.

This Sunday was inspirational. Not only did the freezing air pump a little extra pep into one's step, but the Chicago marathon runners took over the city for an amazing accomplishment. Over 35,000 people came to Grant Park on Sunday to start the Bank of America Chicago Marathon at 7:30 in the morning. It was a sight to see. My favorite moments were those when people cheered on complete strangers. While people definitely were there to root for specific runners, I loved that I saw an old lady carrying a sign that said "You can do it runners! Keep going!" Stuff like that just restores my faith in humanity. Although there were thousands of runners from all over the world present, I had some serious patriotic feelings going on. I have no idea why. It just made me go all Lee Greenwood for the whole morning. I even spontaneously broke into the song once or twice.

It was even more inspirational because Karley, Mel, and myself got the opportunity to wake up at 5:15 to cheer on Sam, Karley's fiance, as he ran his first marathon ever. The kid is a BEAST. He ran 26.2 miles in 2 hours and 53 minutes. A sub-3 hour marathon on his first try!! Needless to say, we were all insanely proud. 

Just another day of realizing why I love this city. I'm starting to really feel like this could be home and not just a transient place that I'm stopping through. Of course tomorrow I could wake up and decide differently, so this might just be me romanticizing events like this as usual. But in any case, a good time was had by all, we were inspired to achieve our goals, and I got to reference Lee Greenwood in a blog post. So I'd say a good day.

Annnnnd they're off!
Faithful fans
In his final stretch - this is just after mile 25 and he was still looking good!
With the man of the hour. Good for you, Sam Coco. YOU GO Sam Coco!
(Mean Girls reference....sorry I'm not sorry.)