Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stuff Students Say: April Edition

I got to meet Taylor Swift on Spring Break!
Well I saw a blonde lady. 

I wanna be a teacher like you when I grow up because then I'd be eating flamin' hots alllll day long. (Public Service Announcement: I have never once eaten flamin' hots on the job.)

When she saw what I brought for lunch:
Y'all ain't got no French Fries?!

Do you know what a pineapple looks like before it's cut up?
Oh yeah, that's Spongebob's house!

(Explaining the storyline of Snow White)
Okay so that old ugly lady had give her an apple that went bad and she died. Then that man kissed her and that's the story.

(At recess time)
Me: You're a really fast runner!
Student: My mama made me that way, that's why!

Ms. Gesch imma turn you into a cute pretty dog and take you home with me. 

Tanight imma watch ALL the air bud movies!

My momma is paying me to be nice. That's why I'm so sweet today.

I'll bring you some lasagna tomorrow on your birthday. 
Tomorrow's not my birthday.
It will be. If there's lasagna then it's your birthday.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I'm Not Joking

This is a real message I took while answering the phone at my parents' house in rural Wisconsin last Saturday.

"Oh, hey Anna! Didn't know you were home visiting. Let your parents know that one of the girls who was on the second grade class Sunday School outing forgot her gun in your dad's car. If you could just have him bring the gun to church tomorrow so we can return it that'd be great. Thanks." 

Again: I'm not joking.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


It's been awhile since I've done a "Currently" post, which is a really fun kind of way to reflect on the state of affairs in your life from time to time. I read the last two posts I did of this installment, and had to chuckle to myself as there seems to be a theme of weddings and training for running events that is cyclical in my life. Here's what I'm up to in April of 2013. 


Loving: I am loving two things in particular these days. The first? Daylight. Not the Matt & Kim song (although I do certainly love that as well). The fact that I am driving to and from school in relative daylight outside is an unbelievable difference from the Dark Ages of November through February. How did I stand it?! I can actually get home from school at 5:30 and still have enough time to go on a run or finish an errand or cook a meal without feeling like a nocturnal vampire. Daylight has done wonders for my general happiness. The second thing I'm loving? CAPTAIN CRUNCH. I had no idea that there was an ALL BERRIES version of this cereal. Holy cow. So good. 

Reading: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safron Foer. It is all things hopeful, heartbreaking, original, and special. You follow Oskar Schell, a nine-year-old boy, around his hometown of New York City after he has lost his father in 9/11. He is on the mission of his young lifetime, and bit by bit you get to know the context, mind, and family history of the brilliant kid. It is wonderful because it reminds you the beauty and honesty of a child's brain. It is also wonderful because it shows how goodness and brilliance can still happen in the midst of darkness and brokenness and somehow it's all okay. That made no sense, I realize. Go read the book and you'll understand. 


Watching: Documentaries. I wrote a little review of the most touching one I've watched lately earlier this month. Thanks to Netflix, I have a steady supply of them to keep on my to-watch list.  I don't love to read nonfiction books, but I'm finding nonfiction movies like these fascinating. Some are definitely better than others. But a really good one takes an issue or a person or a struggle and portrays it in just the right way that you know it is true and authentic to the subject matter. I love it when a storyteller, or moviemaker in this case I suppose, can show the heart of another person without bias and discoloring.

Anticipating: June 19. People, it's on its way. The last day of school. This school year WILL one day ACTUALLY DEFINITELY EVENTUALLY CERTAINLY come to an end. That was a lot of adverbs just now. Sorry. Let's just say that you should call me up to hang out on June 20. I'll be in a good mood. 

Listening To: Hick jams. I'm not lying. Florida Georgia Line is cranked to full volume on a daily basis during my morning commute. I'm also obsessed with Darius Rucker's version of "Wagon Wheel" these days. This winter I was all into complex, introspective, alternative music (and still am), but something about the promise of warm weather coming fits the sunny, carefree, simple vibe of country music. 

Planning: The Bachelorette festivities of everyone's favorite, Karley Mae VanDyke. As the maid of honor, I thought this element of the duties would be more stress than fun, but it is totally going to be a riot. The blueness is going to abound, my friends. I get to plan it with Jordan, another one of the bridesmaids. There is a huge group of about 25 of us that are getting together to laugh and have a wonderful time. I can't wait to post details of what we do on that day/night, but as the food, plans, and outfits are all starting to come together, I just have pure joy and excitement for May 11. She is the funnest girl I know. She deserves a fun party. (That incorrect usage of "funnest" was actually in honor of Karley's interesting personal grammar rules.) 

Working On: A half marathon. The 15k last fall did, indeed, spark in me a desire to conquer another running event. Well, let's not say conquer. Let's say finish. I did the Shamrock Shuffle with Jen the first week of April and I ran 5 miles last Saturday. Both felt okay, and I'm looking to make each weekend run a little longer leading up until July 21. This week is 6 miles, so we'll see how that feels on Saturday. 

Wishing: For a bike. Like mentioned above, daylight is lasting longer these days. People are out running and walking and I want to be a part of it all. I am giddy with excitement for summer in Chicago (oh so different from winter in this city) and a bike would be a fabulous way to explore new places in the sunshine. The tax return check hopefully is coming any day now, and I think a portion of it will fund a bike. That, and a new pair of high top sneakers. Such mature purchases for a cosmopolitan girl of the 21st century, I know. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

First World Problems?

You've all heard of first world problems. There are pictures all over the internet making fun of the frivolous stuff we Americans like to complain about: "My GPS made me drive through the ghetto," "I can't hear the TV while I'm eating crunchy chips," and the like. Let'sbereal...we've also all heard the college freshman with the most free time they'll ever have in their lives complain about studying for their finals for general education classes. I often feel like anything I complain about is really just a first world problem. The hassle of getting a city parking sticker for my car, the confusion when my credit card company replaces my card for me after a fraud attempt, and my lack of time to go to the gym that makes my monthly gym membership a nice little donation to the fitness center where I'm supposed to be going. But then there are the things that I really do struggle with, and when it comes to asking for help or admitting that I'm having a hard time, I feel guilty doing so. This is something I've found to be weird when it comes to my transition to adulthood and the working world and my first year with Teach For America.


Let me start by saying: I have a good life. I love this amazing city. I love the church I found here. I love my apartment and roommates and neighborhood. I love my friends and the way they are there for me even with all the changes that come with post-college life. I am employed right out of college doing meaningful work, which is something that was extremely important to me when it came to finding my first job. I have enough money to take care of what I need and even a little extra to buy yet another pair of colored skinny jeans when I feel the need to add to my collection.

All that said, because of all that goodness, I've had a hard time figuring out what to do with my uncertainties, struggles, pressures, and stress. When there are families breaking up, hearts breaking open, and bombs going off, who am I to ever be discontent or overwhelmed with anything?

If I'm going to be real, I have to say that the daily juggling act of balancing my job and life have been overwhelming this year. Maybe some people are just better at it than I am right out of college, but I just can't keep all the pins in the air on my own without dropping them all in a clattering mess from time to time. I dropped them yesterday after school, which resulted in a weepy ridiculous phone call to my mother after she innocently asked me for my credit card number so she could sort out a logistical detail for me.

This teaching gig at my school has been really hard on me. I run into this issue every family gathering, friend reunion, and introduction to a new person. Should I tell them that I'm invincible, or should I admit that sometimes I feel completely incapable? Instead of admitting that I need help or prayers or a break sometimes, I feel like I have to have a big fat Teach-for-America-peppy-social-justice-girl smile on my face at all times. I just think: Positivity in the face of adversity. Finding the bright spots instead of focusing on the negatives. Putting on a happy face instead of freaking out. But all that does, in reality, is to lose that vulnerability that makes you a human being. It's okay to struggle. I'm learning the hard way that admitting you are having a hard time is not complaining, it's being honest. This is so important because being overwhelmed leads you to the one who holds it all in His hands. Even if you are a white employed girl with a good life. Having your material needs met does not mean that you will not go through spiritual storms. There's no time for guilt over first world problems. Because admitting that you aren't handling it all is a testament to the truth that we can't handle it all alone. We were never meant to handle it all alone. We aren't expected to be perfect. We aren't expected to be invulnerable. We are expected to be faithful through the trials. When we admit the struggles, and we let Him carry them instead, we can keep moving forward. We can take the next step.

And that's a a freeing feeling.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

April Showers

Friends. It's finally here: Karleypalooza 2013. We've hit wedding season at full speed and we are not looking back. This weekend of bridal showers marked the commencement of the march to May 25 and the goodness that will be Karley's wedding. Oh, I suppose it's Sam's wedding too. That too. But I am beyond excited for the chaos to begin and the buildup to start. The aunts on the VanDrunen side put together an absolutely great shower for Karley, complete with table themes, cupcake displays, Dutch details in the decorations, great food, and fifty attendees. It was held in the basement (I use the word basement  lightly because it is far from dingy and dirty like the word imples) at my grandma's church which has a great facility. Karley and Sam got tons of cool presents and I'd say a good 43% of the gifts were cupcake-themed. Once they're married I plan on getting a sugar high with every visit. 

Stay tuned for future festivities, including the bachelorette weekend in May. It's going down. 

Sam came to experience the gift opening.
The amazing dessert table. 
Karley and all the aunts who threw the shower for her. 
Oh my family. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I've Been Tilley Faced!

I'm not sure if Tilley Faced is actually a verb or not, but whatever it is, I am very excited about it!

I have this friend named David Tilley. DT for short. I met him as a freshman when he was a junior and would always admire his fantastic graphic design goodness plastered all over Trinity's campus. I also was on the improv team with him for awhile and could not even take his hilarity. The guy is super tall, has a distinctive head of hair, and drives around a moped scooter (at least he did in college...maybe he's more grown up these days...I'll have to ask).

He is also quite the creative, and has his own entrepreneurial things going on. One of them is his company called Tilley Face, which is essentially a face illustration company. Needless to say, I was tickled pink when he showed me my very own Tilley Face for my blog header and whatever else I would use it for. I gotta say, he's got me pegged, all the way down to the eyebrow piercing, awk smile, and freckles. What do you think of the resemblance? I'm having a small geeky party over here in my apartment for this big new thing for my blog. I suggest you throw yourself a small party and click on his company's name above to see more of his work. Chewy happens to be my fave.


Thanks, DT!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

We're Goin' to Kentucky

The title of this post is from a chanting game we do in my second grade room. It starts: "We're goin' to Kentucky, we're goin' to the fair, to see the Señoritas, with flowers in their hair!..." (it goes on, and if you'd like I can perform it for you sometime). Well, I really did go to Kentucky to go see some señoritas two weeks ago! A batch of my beloved friends from my semester in Spain go to school in Asbury, Kentucky and a few others congregated there with me for the weekend for an awesome reunion. It was SO SO SO good to see them. I feel like reunions are something that just brings joy to my life like nothing else. Just look on the right side of this blog's screen, click the "reunions" tag and see for yourself. I love me a good reunion. Always will.

Me, Lisa, Angie, Chelsea, Emily, and Linnea
We got to hang out at Asbury, hang out at Chelsea's house, get Sushi and Japanese food at a fabulous restaurant, stop by Chik-Fil-A, and get some southern BBQ. Hmm. That was a lot of food I just listed now. Oh well. 

Myself, Linnea, and Angie
My favorite night was Saturday night, where we technically didn't really do anything. But it was a lot to me. When we were in Spain we never got to hang out with each other in our Señoras' homes. We were always out and about doing something out in the street or in restaurants. It was amazing to be able to sit in Chelsea's house, paint nails, get haircuts (she has her cosmetology license), watch Pitch Perfect (I've seen this movie 4,579 times and it never gets old), and laugh our heads off. It was a good old fashioned sleepover and it could not have been better. Midwest girls like myself enjoy this good clean fun, even when we're probably too old for it. I'll never be too old for nights like this. 

I hadn't seen these people in two years and we got to pick up right where we left off. I got to see how they've grown, changed, and gone down their own cool paths. I got to share my own path and share how I've grown in my own ways. And, yet again, here I was afforded the opportunity to sit back and reflect on how good I have it. I was thinking about all this stuff on the long trip home. The goodness just always keeps on coming, even when there's hard stuff mixed in there. I got to reflect on the people in my life and be reminded of how good they are. I got to reflect on the places I've been led and the good grace I've been granted to get me through each stage. I got to reflect on how a good God has filled this world with good things, people, and places. That is good stuff. 

I miraculously did not ruin my nails within 30 seconds of painting them as I usually do
This is Chelsea. I love this picture. 
Not the plate of food that I ordered, but I had to document this spread
of pulled pork, cornbread, and macaroni and cheese. So southern. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why did the Easter Egg Hide?

....because he was a little chicken!

Okay. Weak joke. But not even a terrible pun can bring me down because I just had an awesome time visiting Alex and Heidi over Easter weekend and the first half of my (glorious) spring break. It's not your typical SUPER SICK SB13 PCB kind of week, but it's much better, in my opinion. I flew back to Chicago tonight and I am already missing D.C. and the people I left behind. My parents were with me for half of the time, and I got the privilege of staying at Alex and Heidi's new (and beautiful) townhouse for the whole visit. Here are a few highlights for you to relive the goodness right along with me. Read below each photo for the deets.


Easter dinner. This picture about sums up the extent to which my mad cooking skillz were utilized for this big event. (Hint: I don't have mad cooking skillz) Alex is somewhat (alottawhat) a foodie and embraced this opportunity to dazzle us with his talents in the kitchen. He made some fantastic salmon and did a top-chef-calibur demonstration for us guests. I think I could even recreate it someday. In other news, the wine was delicious.


One of the absolute highlights of my trip was a visit to the famous Georgetown Cupcakes shop of the TV show on TLC, DC Cupcakes. While the rest of my family saw the line and immediately admitted defeat, Heidi stood dutifully with me down the block for the hour long wait until we finally got to order our box of a half-dozen cupcakes. I will say, it was worth the wait. We stopped and ate the cupcakes on the steps of a beautiful multimillion dollar home that was for sale. We thought it might attract potential buyers to see four strange Wisconsinites chowing down on baked goods on the front steps. Nobody came to see the house while we were there. Odd. 


I've added this picture purely for the fact that this is classic Dad: button-down dress shirt, dress pants, hiking all-weather shoes, cupcake in hand, posing for a picture and yet also somehow in mid-sentence.


Happening upon this sign was a significant moment for me. Sure, to the average onlooker, it could just be some dumb old Charles Dickens quote. But to me, it is the moment that March weather was so perfectly articulated like I have never been able to articulate on my own. It was outside a great coffee shop in Georgetown called Baked and Wired and I read it aloud three times in a row (passersby were confused at my excitement). I was always a little wishy washy on Charles Dickens, but now I am officially in his allegiance. It's pure genius. March weather totally is summer in the light and winter in the shade; it is absolutely when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold. That is exactly what it is like.  It is the best description of spring weather I have ever beheld. 


I like me some hard cider. I asked the waitress to bring me whatever cider they had, and this is what she brought to me. Original Sin. And I was out to eat with my parents! How scandalous. How risqué 


My parents left after the weekend, leaving me with Alex and Heidi to chill on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday night they took me out for some Vietnamese goodness. This soup is called pho. I finished not even half of it and was insanely full. It was really good. I also suck at using chopsticks. The sophistication comes in stages, people. 


This was from Tuesday night when Alex, Heidi, and I were invited over to a friend of theirs' apartment for dinner (I had a really hard time figuring out the correct pluralization of that phrase and am still perplexed about whether or not it is correct.). I was exploring downtown when he was about to pick me up. Then he dropped it on me. Out of nowhere. SITUATIONAL AWARENESS. It's officially passing on to the next generation. Brian Gesch would be so proud. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Lost and Found

I have to tell you about how I just watched an amazing movie. I suppose I should say I just watched an amazing FILM, because FILM is the term you use when a movie turns into something more than just a movie. FILM is also a term you use when you want to sound like a snobby-indy-flick-type, but I digress. I'm out here in D.C. visiting Alex and Heidi and we three watched it tonight after the Easter festivities died down.


It's a documentary called Searching for Sugar Man, and it tells the poignant story of Rodriguez, a musician who produced two albums in the early 1970's that completely flopped in America, but were underground megahits in apartheid South Africa. Long story short, this flick tells the tale of a music journalist who tracked him down in 1997, 20 years after his records released, and found him living modestly in Detroit working manual labor. His anti-establishment message spoke to the South Africans who were under a tightly censored regime at the time, and circulated from a bootlegged copy of his album Cold Fact. It spread like wildfire through the nation, inspiring fellow musicians to make music with similar free-thinking messages. His album was censored but still sold over a half million copies in spite of the ban. In South Africa he was considered to be in the same ballpark as Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan, yet no one knew anything about him. All they had was his photo on the album cover. Urban legend told the story of how he had supposedly died by a dramatic on-stage suicide and that was that. But that wasn't that. He was alive and well, living in obscurity in Detroit, the victim (I presume) of some sleazy record company people who didn't pay dues to where dues should have been paid. But there he was, all the same, unaware of his superstardom across an ocean. They flew him out in 1998 to perform in a half dozen sold out shows, where he was finally accepted and adequately recognized for his remarkable talent. Rodriguez was back from the dead and performing in front of sold out crowds at last. What a story.

What got me the most was the where is he now? element of the documentary? This movie had him wrapped in mystery the whole time; we didn't get to actually meet him until over halfway through the footage. Now we've finally found him! He's alive, performing music, and gaining recognition! Roll out the Beverly Hills mansion and new record deal, right? Wrong. The guy still lives in Detroit in the same house he's lived in for over 40 years. He gave the proceeds from his sold out shows and promotions to his friends and family. He continues to work hard in construction and renovation. I'm not saying that people who embrace their financial success are doing something wrong. But I am saying that it is a wonderful thing to see a true talent who loves what he does for the sake of what it is and not for the purpose of what it can get him. He is a thoughtful, sensitive, profoundly humble guy.

There's something about a poet or singer or writer or artist that can get at the real heart of stuff. I found Rodriguez to be a heartbreakingly great human being. The film ended with a shot of his walk home to his rundown residence in Detroit. Out of a pretty wretched place shines a brilliant talent. It makes me want to be in the business of helping to tell stories like this. We all need to hear stories about truth breaking through the hardship and darkness, giving way to a beautiful song.