Sunday, August 25, 2013

So Long, Sweet Summer

I have this moment every year. This moment when I realize that, yes, truly, my summer is over. Done. Gone. Never to be seen again until I make it through the horrendous Chicago winter. Dashboard Confessional plays in my mind (gets you nostalgic for high school, doesn't it?) as I look back on all the stuff I fit into my (extremely short) summer this year. Four weeks wasn't much, but I enjoyed it! 'Til next time, summertime. I'm already over three weeks into my year of teaching and it is time for some happy memories from summertime, Chicago, good people, and good food.

It's just not summer without a trip to Miller Park. 
Roadtrip with one of my faves to go see two other favorites. 

Architectural boat tour of the city with Heidi, who got to spend two days with me! 
My favorite restaurant ever with the roommates

Camping with Trinity friends, compliments of Karley's talent for planning things

Beautiful friends coming in to go and attend some beautiful weddings. 

Multiple trips to The Bean. 

Actually having time/energy to go out on the town with friends. 

Lots of good times with this cutie. 

This cutie too. 

And, to top it all off, a disgusting selfie after finishing my first half marathon. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I cooked food.

It's kind of ridiculous how scarcely a full, nicely cooked meal happens in my life. The beginning of the year just drains my energy, leaving me at 5:00 void of creativity and effort. Last week I got fed up and decided that, dang it, I was going to make something. I asked my mom for a good idea and she suggested "Chicken Diane" which I love. Obviously, it wasn't quite as delicious when I made it as when my mom does, but it was nice to have a real meal. You want to make it? Here's how.

You will need:
4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (I just got the tenders which has like 8 in a package)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons chopped green onions
Juice of one lime
2 Tablespoons of apple juice (or brandy if you're classy)
3 Tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/2 cup of chicken broth
2 Tablespoons of butter

Then this is what you do: take out your anger on the chicken and tenderize those things until you're feeling an inner sense of calm again. Then you sprinkle it with the salt and pepper. Heat 1 T of the oil and 1 T of the butter in a big skillet. (Butter makes everything better.) Cook chicken on high heat for four minutes per side. After that, transfer to a warm serving platter and cover to keep warm. Now you have to make the sauce that you pour on top.

All the ingredients ready to go. 
Turn down the heat to medium and add the green onions, apple juice, parsley, and mustard to the pan. Whisk that together, then add the chicken broth. Add the remaining butter. (Remember, butter makes EVERYTHING better.) Pour that combination over the chicken. Oh, PS, you've made some linguini noodles, so put the chicken over those.. (For timing sake, turn on the heat to boil the water and then start doing the chicken on the stove, so they finish at about the same time.) Last but not least, cut up that lime and squeeze the juice over the chicken to be extra pretentious. 

After about 15 minutes of running around and flipping chicken and chopping things and trying not to burn yourself, voila! You have a delicious meal. You no longer feel like a college kid because a frozen pizza has not even materialized out of the freezer today, and you feel pretty great about that. I say that you should enjoy this whole shindig with a glass (or two) of wine. 

Now all you need is someone to help you cut the bread. (Clearly that's the most important part.)


Friday, August 23, 2013

Show Me the Money

This is one of those wise-words-of-my-dad moments, so if you're not in the mood for some life advice, go ahead and move on. I, on the other hand, am not above any advice to this whole adult world thing that I'm living in right now. It's a humbling experience and I grab hold of any wisdom I can to put in my pocket for later.

I was on the phone with my dad the other day after school. He's really good about calling me to check in over the phone. Our conversations are usually about 10 minutes or less, but it's just a good thing to touch base from time to time, and he remembers to do it more often that I remember. We were meandering through our usual catch-up conversations. Usually one of these questions is: "How are the boys?" Or most recently, "How is the boy?" and one of the questions is most definitely, "How is your situational awareness?"

Then we somehow got on the issue of money and how we know people on both ends of the very broad spectrum of the haves and have-nots (not to use the terms in the hyper-politicized manner you're thinking of; I'm no Marxist) and how we all fall somewhere in between. I know children who do not eat dinner at night; some of my kids only eat the school breakfast and school lunch provided in their classroom. I also know there are people who do not blink twice at a meal that costs 10 or even 100 times what one of those school lunches cost for their daily lunch. We all (or most of us) come in contact with either end of the spectrum from time to time.

I was talking over some money things of my own with my dad and going on one of my worry trips about whether or not, in the coming years, I'll be ready for things like down payments on houses and the like. I'd rather not be another twentysomething drowning in her credit card debt (I am thankful to have 0 dollars of that...) and manage my money somewhat logically, but even then, I get worried about money. My salary is not very exciting. Let's just say I didn't get into the charter school gig for the money. 

But. But. But. Hold on a second. I also am extremely blessed. I have enough to cover rent, food, gas, and even have more than enough left over for clothes, plane tickets, and the odd expense that is coming on the horizon, like how this laptop on which I'm typing is about to byte the dust. (Okay terrible pun. Couldn't resist.) I do not need to go without dinner, and I do not need to think of contingency plans if my landlord evicts me. I do not ever need to wear the same shirt 5 days in a row, and my large dress collection is a little embarrassing. In some ways, by society's standards, I am considered poor because of my salary, but in most ways, in all the ways that influence my daily life, I am actually very rich. And this goes around in my head as I know friends who make twice, three times, and even four times my salary as fresh college graduates.

This is where my dad comes in. He reminded me to be happy for those with the big salary. He reminded me to be compassionate and understanding for those without one. He said all that is fine. We'll stay in this life with however much money we have for about 70, 80 years. "I would hope, that above all else, that I am spiritually rich."

And I hope so too. Because at the end of my 70, 80 (maybe 100? maybe less?) years, I won't be wishing I did anything else but this for my first years out of college. It's very simplified, and sure, I'll have changing opinions on how I use my money here and there, but I think that's a good guiding north star in keeping some perspective. Take that advice and save it for later, friends, because this one's a keeper.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


I had a really good day at school today. Which is good, because yesterday had me thinking I should throw in the towel altogether. Isn't it funny how life can swing back and forth like that? My math lesson went well, my kids were generally kinder today toward one another, and we packed up for dismissal without any problems. Let me tell you: that was an accomplishment. Because if you think it's easy to pack up 23 6-year-olds without a hitch, you're delusional. But when I got home, after I sorted the mail and dropped my stuff on the floor with a thud, I sat and stared at the wall. Because even though it was a good day, it didn't feel like a good day.

It didn't feel like a good day because there was an incident.

An incident, of course, means that something happened with a weapon, violence, or the gangs near my school. An incident means that something unsafe just happened and now you need to react. Today's particular incident involved passersby carrying a firearm near our older elementary kids on the playground and asking them to look at it and take it from them. A ten-year-old was asked to take a gun and shoot it today. During his recess. That's the world we are living in. That's the Chicago we are living in. 

When you hear that there's been an incident as a teacher in my school, you kind of just shut up, listen to directions for contingency plans that you need to know right now (dismissal locations, Gym/Recess schedules, and other logistics), and go read your email or meet with the administration at the end of the day to get the more descriptive details after the fact and after everyone is safely home with whomever picked them up from school. It's happened more often than once in the last year, and it's even happened more often than twice in the last year. For the sake of my parents and other people who worry about me and where I work in the city, I'm going to leave it at that for the count of incidents around which I've had to maneuver my class of children. Today this incident meant that my kids had Gym in the classroom instead of walking down the street to the big space where we usually go. There are only so many running in place games, jumping jacks next to your desk games, and rounds of "heads-up-7-up" you can play with kids before they get to the point where they just need to go run around in a big space. But, because of the incident, it was the safe decision to have Gym in a classroom. And I'm thankful for my awesome principal and co-workers who keep it together in the midst of chaos for the sake of my kids. 

It's odd to me, though, that we call these things incidents. I naturally think of the words "incidental" and "incidentally" when I think of the word "incident." "Incidentally" means that something happened by chance or a random occurrence. You know, you might incidentally run into an old friend in the frozen pizza aisle one day. You might incidentally trip on the sidewalk and scuff the side of your new shoes. You might incidentally catch that you have a virus or infection on a routine checkup at the doctor. But these incidents at my school are far from incidental. They're not chance. They're not random. They're not happenstance.


These incidents are symptoms of the growing beast that lives in the poorest neighborhoods of a powerhouse city, the beast that gains momentum every time a kid loses his or her right to just be a kid. These incidents are not incidents at all, but real stories of the patterns of violence and injustice that continue to make the act of growing up and achieving your goals and becoming something new increasingly difficult for kids like mine. 

No one will hear about this incident on the news tonight. No one will read about it in the paper tomorrow. To most, it's either something you shake your head at or worse...just something that's happened...incidentally. Oops! Bummer! Another weapon incident on the West Side! Change the channel. When will this stuff start to really matter to us?

You know what's the oddest thing of all? This incident happened in the same exact spot where, exactly 24 hours earlier, there was an Anti-Violence Rally where teenagers and community leaders spoke out about keeping the peace in East Garfield Park. I suppose one could say that the rally and the subsequent day's events, so closely related and also contrasted, happened...incidentally

I, for one, do not even believe in the term "incidentally" at all. I believe that things happen because something or someone causes them; things don't just happen. Chance doesn't cause things. People, both broken and also redeemable in the most confusing and wonderful of ways, cause things. We cause things. And when we cause things, they are for good or for harm. We need more people to decide to cause good to happen. Even when I'm not capable of causing good to happen on my own (because believe me, I mostly just mess things up), I have to rely on the One who can make it happen for me and through me in my life. We all have to. No more incidental incidents happening incidentally. It seems to me like it's time for us to stop pretending that things happen by chance in Chicago and to start causing things to happen in Chicago instead. For good.

Until then, my kids will be living, as 6-year-old kids on the playground, from incident to incident

Monday, August 12, 2013


The immaturity of this post's title is meant to reflect the age I am about to seem after you read it in its entirety.


Because that was the median age of attendee at Taylor Swift's concert on Saturday night. Never mind I happen to be a decade older than that.

But I don't care, because Karley, Mel, and I had a magical experience at Soldier Field in her majesty's presence and none of y'all haters can take that away. Let' s just say that after all 90 glorious minutes of her performance, the only words I could put together on my lips, parted in sheer awe and dazzlement, were, "Today was a fairytale."


But for real though, you guys. The three amigos have been pro-T-Swift for as long as there WAS T-Swift. Taylor is our age - three months younger than me and three months older than Karley and Mel - and speaks to us in each and every stage of life. We were there at age 17 for her debut album, started college to the tunes of Fearless, finished junior year and the last stretch at Trinity to Speak Now, and met adulthood face on jamming out to the tunes of Red. She was basically the soundtrack to our friendships, relationships, and all the other ships that were going on.

We absolutely love her. Sorry, we are NOT sorry. 


And we kept just saying things spontaneously throughout the night that made us seem all the more ridiculous. "She's so pretty." "She's amazing." "I love her outfit." "That song is so true." "She's the best." "This is the coolest thing I've ever done." "She's SO pretty." And more obnoxious proclamations.

Basically, I had an amazing Saturday night. Sitting with two of my favorite people in the world, watching one of my other favorite people in the world jam out to the songs I've been singing over and over and over for the last six years. Next to 10-year-old little girls out with their soccer moms and red pom-poms. It really was a fairytale.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Jolly Lolly

I had the privilege to attend Lollapalooza 2013 for the day on Sunday. Now, if you're wondering why on earth I bought an all-day concert ticket on the first Sunday of my school year, that's a valid concern. To be honest, I bought the ticket in April without much consideration for the pure exhaustion that sets in for teachers at the beginning of the year. I came home tonight from school and told my roommate Jen that it felt like I had endured a 3 hours of a pillow fight; I didn't have any specific physical pain of any kind, but my whole body felt sore and I had no energy. At least I assume that's what a 3-hour pillow fight feels like. 

But I digress. Back to Lolla. I fought the exhaustion and had an amazing time with my friends Sam and Stephen (and their college friends), and Gina from Trinity. Gina and I ended up getting separated from the pack and just ended up catching the last few bands that we wanted to see. We found out that it is pretty much impossible to find anyone or meet up with anyone due to crap cell reception, but we caught some amazing bands on Sunday. We got tidbits of lots of good ones, but got a good dose of Tegan and Sara, Vampire Weekend, and Phoenix really close to the stage. All of those bands were impressive, and I was particularly impressed with Tegan and Sara. They sounded amazing live. Which, if you sing their songs in the car, you know that it is not easy to sound good live whilst singing their songs. Plus now I want to go buy a real leather jacket because Sara looked super cool in hers. In our efforts to get close to the front of the crowds for these shows, we had a lot of wait time in between. Here are a few selfies from our giddy and happy day on Sunday while we waited for our bands to play. Def going back next year, first week of teaching or not.



A happy day.