Thursday, November 28, 2013

Muchas Gracias

Ah. Today is Thanksgiving. Memories of weird turkey plays from second grade flood my mind with every utterance of the holiday's name. What a great day. People together, eating, talking, napping, and generally being happy and content. It makes my soul feel good. I have 5 things to share today that I am thankful for. Usually I'm a little more snarky and creative, but in all seriousness, this year I am just plain humbled at all the good things in my life. I write my list every year and would love to read yours too.

I am thankful for...

1. Wisconsin. I've always missed Wisconsin when I'm away, but this year my home state holds a particularly special place in my heart. There is an understood something when I tell people in the city that I'm from Wisconsin. It's like they already know I'm a certain kind of person when I say I'm from Wisconsin and they usually nod and smile. While I used to not want to be in anybody's mind any certain kind of person, I now wear that label with resolute pride. I love Chicago, don't get me wrong. But those people are right, there is something about being from Wisconsin. Something down-to-earth, something friendly, something blunt, something hick, and something human. I will always love Wisconsin.


2. My family. This is a generic thing for which to be thankful, but I am finding more and more that my family is a rare thing. I work with kids every day who don't have the support of a family like I do. I have that safety net below my feet, waiting to catch me the second I trip or even if I fall. I have people on my side, in my corner, on my team. As I'm growing up and figuring out where my life is going, one of the things I want above all others is to grow into a person who becomes a safety net for others. I learned what that looks like from my family. 


3. My MacBook Air. This is totally materialistic. I just finally replaced my old laptop on Tuesday and this new machine is a thing of beauty. I'm using it to put this post up, and I figured it was only fair to be very thankful for this too. Apple got me again. 


4. Christmas. I AM SO HAPPY THAT IT IS THE CHRISTMAS SEASON! Thanksgiving marks the switch from that November slump to December cheer and I am so thankful that it is finally here. With such a late Thanksgiving this year, I only have three weeks of teaching standing between me and sleeping in, wrapping presents, and ALL THE TWINKLE LIGHTS. I'm giddy already.


5. Last but definitely not least, I am thankful for Brian Whartnaby. And how great of a camera-sniper-victim that he is. Plus he puts up with my crazy fried self after I lose my mind from long days and weeks of teaching. I think I'll keep him around for awhile. 





Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Half-Year-Aversary!



On this date, six months ago, Karley Mae VanDyke became Karley Mae Staal in a swift "I Do" and a kiss. Call me sentimental, but I was super bummed out when it was all over. It was one of the happiest days of my life, and no I'm not ashamed to say that I was probably a little too excited for this wedding to happen. It was a magical day. And I think it's an accomplishment to have made it 6 months in the whole marriage world, because although I've never been there, it seems like a challenge to say the least. I got nostalgic and was scrolling through some pictures to remember how great it was.

 Here are a few pics to reminisce on the beautiful 25th of May this year. Congrats, Karley and Sam! Love you both!




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Saturday, November 23, 2013

No-Shame November

It's that time of year for me again! This was inspired for me two years ago by my friend Liz, who spent a whole month blogging about things that she was ashamed of. Then she wrote about those things (some were funny, some were serious) and shared her results. I don't have the humility nor the guts to do a whole month of posts that expose all of the things that make me feel guilty or ashamed, but I do like to devote one post in November to this cause. In a weird way, it's kind of fun. So it's not no-shave November for me (although for my boyfriend it is; his lumberjack beard has come along rather nicely) but no-shame November. And here we go with this year's post:

I'm ashamed that, going on two years into the process, this whole how-to-be-a-grown-up thing is still a mystery to me.

This post has come from many moments of hilarity, confusion, and even sometimes despair. Nobody told me what a crazy ride my life would be after graduating college. I think this is a problem unique to my generation. For my parents and their parents, you grew up because that's just what you did. You worked at the farm, foundry, or family business since you were 12 years old anyway, so working full time and making decisions weren't big steps for you. You were more worried about the life you were building instead of the image you were building. But we millennials are not like you guys.

But seriously though. 

We had the luxury of putting growing up on the back burner. We get to do things like summer mission trips, semesters abroad, and freshman years spent "finding ourselves." We date more people, get married later in life, buy more clothes, and go out to eat. We've had it good, and now we are paying for it. Sometimes it's a really funny moment, like this week, when I made myself the spongebob-shaped-mac-and-cheese and marveled at how much joy this simple thing brought to me. Sometimes it's a really depressing moment, when you realize that you are a "well-adjusted" and fully competent 24-year-old who still doesn't understand her own insurance package from work, even after her own father has explained it to you 14 different times with diagrams and visual displays to help.

Not only does the real world expect you to adjust to the exhaustion of a 50+ hours per week job, it also expects you to find that job in the first place, it expects you to cook dinner, find an apartment, find a church, manage your budget (woof), finish grad school, attend 48 weddings, and keep your place relatively presentable. And on top of all that? You, as a twentysomething, need to also do all of this while looking really cute and having a lot of fun and meeting a lot of new friends because obviously you're enjoying your twenties! 

I do think I had a particularly hard time with the adjustment from college to real-world, simply because of my ridiculous job. It's a good job, and an important one, one that I'm thankful for, but it is also definitely ridiculous. There are many days on my drive home where I look back and just laugh. Balancing the rest of my life against all that goes on in my daily life of teaching in East Garfield Park is definitely a challenge. And here's my question to the world: how do you other grown-ups decide how long to stay in your job? Or what other jobs to do? And how do you really know what you want to be when you grow up?

All of this pressure, of course, is imagined and unnecessary. Sometimes I kind of wish I was in a generation that just did everything that was expected of us. But in the end, I absolutely love this hot mess of a life that I lead. So here we go on the confessions:

I'm ashamed to admit that I have my mom on-call for my trips to the grocery store while I ask her to give me on-demand recipe ideas and pick up the ingredients as she lists them for me. After she explains how to make a simple meal twice over the phone, I go back and email her asking for written directions, only to call her again in the midst of cooking the meal to ask if I'm doing it wrong. This is a bimonthly occurrence. (When you see Kathy next, give her a high-five for her mad culinary skills. Then give her a hug for dealing with a daughter like me who did not inherit her natural knack in this area.)

I'm ashamed that one trip to Target can derail any best intentions at that week's budget.

I'm ashamed that instead of becoming moved to action, the needs of looking for jobs, finishing grad programs, paying insurance, registering my teaching license, making dinner, finishing laundry, and finding apartments actually just moves me to want to take a nap on the couch.

One day I will get it together.  But, at least for now, I have no shame in spongebob-shaped-mac-and-cheese. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Weekend in D.C.

Last weekend, which now looking back seems so far away, was bliss. I had the opportunity to fly to D.C. to visit my brother and sister-in-law for the weekend along with my mom. I was there for three days and often scroll through my phone wishing I was back in the middle of a long weekend again. Maybe it's the fact that I'm writing this on a Sunday night that gives me such a sense of melancholy, maybe it's the I'm-a-teacher-and-it's-almost-Thanksgiving-break blues. Who knows. But either way, looking back on these pictures gives me a small sense of happiness in the midst of my planning session.

We spent time talking, catching up, eating, and exploring. I think that's the best way to spend time, don't you think? My mom and I spent almost all day on Friday at the Newseum, which was incredible. One of the best tourist things I've done yet. Here's my weekend in six pictures. 'Til next time, D.C.!

photo 5
Great cupcakes. Love the tag line. 

photo 3
Serious happy hour conversations. Like whether or not to order Tater Tots. We decided
to go forward with two orders, and it turned out to be a great decision. 

photo 1
The Newseum displayed all the major front pages from September 11. This was my favorite. 

photo 4
A trip to Alex and Heidi guarantees a great coffee shop. 

photo 2
So proud of Alex! 

My little buddy for the weekend. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

So That Happened

I'm currently on a long weekend visiting Alex and Heidi in Washington D.C. with my mom. It's been a great time of hanging out and catching up with them as well as Heidi's side of the family who is out around these parts as well. On Friday, my mom and I decided to visit the Newseum, which, by the way, is one of the best museums I've ever been to. I'll post pictures and a little description of that later of course, but I had to share this super super awk moment. A moment that some might say would only happen to me. But maybe this has happened to you and you can relate. Whether you're sharing in my misery or laughing at it, here's the story either way.

So there I was, minding my own business in the FBI exhibit of the Newseum. It had writeups of famous cases where the FBI was involved and artifacts and descriptions of interesting details of each. My mom was in the same area of the museum, but at a different display. I was standing by myself examining the letters from the Unabomber when, all of a sudden, an unknown human came from behind me and grabbed me around my hips, meaning to scare me. It was one step away from a butt grab. It was definitely one of those try-to-make-your-girlfriend-giggle-and-smile moments except for the fact that I was not this stranger's girlfriend, nor was I giggling, nor was I smiling.

Now, maybe it's where I live, maybe it's more about where I work, but I have a personal space instinct that I gets me a little ghetto when it is invaded. I whipped my head around with an emphasis on the neck motion, looked at the guy with my eyebrows slanted inward, and go, "What the HECK?!" in a very pointed tone as I leaned back on one hip.

The guy looked at me, realized I wasn't who he thought I was, slapped his hand over his mouth, and went into a word-vomit session of I'msorryI'msorryI'msorryI'msorryI'msorryI'msorry and OhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygosh and I thoughtyouweresomeoneelse! over and over.

Realizing that he was so embarrassed, I of course switched right into people-please mode and went into my own word vomit session of It'sokayIt'sokayIt'sokay and awkward laughing and Don'tevenworryIdon'tevencareIt'snotevenabigdeal.

After this exchange, we, of course, ran into him and his parents about 4 different times in the next 30 minutes.

It was weird. And I know we overuse the word awkward as young people in American society, but I think it justifies this situation. IT WAS SO AWK. 

Woof. Continue on with your day. And make sure the girl you're grabbing is really who you think she is unless you want some ghetto-fab attitude cominatchya. Life lesson #4562.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Watch Your Language

I love words. As a first grade teacher, I'm even getting into the nitty gritty of the letters and sounds. And I love those too. At least sometimes, these words express our language. Language is a funny thing to nail down, slippery and sharp at the same time. I've been collecting quotes about language: what it is and what it isn't. These make me think about the words I choose, and what words mean to different people. Nice things to ponder on a Sunday night. 

It is true that words drop away, and that the important things are often left unsaid. The important things are learned in faces, in gestures, not in our locked tongues. The true things are too big or too small, or in any case, always the wrong size to fit the template called language. | Jeanette Winterson

It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to, the feeling for the things themselves, for reality is more important than the feeling for pictures. | Vincent van Gogh

The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words. | George Eliot

The best way in the world to deceive believers is to cloak a message in religious language and declare that it conveys some new insight from God. | Charles Stanley

When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language. | John Donne. 

Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation. | Noam Chomsky

Proletarian language is dictated by hunger. The poor chew words to fill their bellies. | Theodor Adorno

A riot is the language of the unheard. | Martin Luther King, Jr.

The finest command of language is often shown by saying nothing. | Roger Babson

Of all of oru inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language. | Walt Disney 

It's a strange world of language in which skating on thin ice can get you into hot water. | Franklin P. Jones

But I like Yeats! That wild Irishman. I really loved his love of language, his flow. His chaotic ideas seemed to me just the right thing for a poet. Passion! He was always on the right side. He may be wrongheaded, but his heart was always on the right side. He wrote beautiful poetry. | Chinua Achebe

We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives. | Toni Morrison