December 31, 2014

Flipping Through the Photo Album of 2014

Oh gosh - I bet a bunch of these new kids don't even know what a photo album is.  Sad, so very sad.

Well here it is!  The last day of 2014!  The time flies by so quickly... it seems like only a year ago I was in Rhode Island with my Knight, saying farewell to 2013.  It was a good year, overall.  There was definitely plenty of stress and tension and difficulties, but there was a lot of good that came through.  I grew up, learned a lot, made a lot of memories.

In celebration of 2014, I am linking up with House Unseen. Life Unscripted (which I found via Miss Iris at The Starving Inspired) for a look back at my year in photographs!

January was an exciting start to the year.  In the first few days I had not one, but two flights canceled, which caused me to miss my dad's birthday =(  but did allow me to spend two extra and unexpected days with my Knight =).  Then not two weeks later I was off on another flight to Minnesota for my dear friend's wedding.  She holds the honor of being my first close friend to get married, and the wedding and trip was awesome!  Above you can see a photo of myself and a group of our friends that are normally scattered across the country, gathered together for a few days.

February was COLD, and a lot of snow and MORE COLD... but it made for good ice skating weather, and we got to take Sister T's friend (far left) ice skating for the very first time.  Good times all around.

In March I turned twenty two (GUYS I'M GOING TO BE TWENTY THREE IN A FEW MONTHS HELP) and had an awesome birthday.  I got to Skype with my Knight that day, and I had a birthday party at what is now my favorite Irish pub ever with some dear friends. Things weren't all awesome in March though... a plan for a visit with my Knight fell through, which turned into six months of not seeing each other.  It was really rough, but it helped us to grow closer to each other and more dependent on our faith to support and strengthen us.  (Oh yes - and March was when my blog got a remake!)

I must dedicate April to this dear new friend of mine... I think it was the end of March/beginning of April that we started piecing together that we knew some of the same people and after a string of Sundays where we showed up for choir with coordinating outfits we had officially become good friends by Easter.  Funny story - when we were taking this picture, our fellow choir member taking it asked if we had known each other before Kathryn had joined choir back in January.  We said no, as a matter of fact we hadn't.  It was only after several more months that we slowly remember that yes, we had met before then - several times in fact!

May was  the month when at last I was able to go visit my Knight again, and be there as he graduated from his college. I was so proud of him, and it was such a joy to be there and watch him walk across the stage.  It was also the month that my grandparents celebrate 50 years of marriage to each other - which of course was celebrated with a great party!  And in May I started my new job at the hotel, and it's the best job I've ever had.

June was more graduations... my big little brother graduated from eighth grade (where has the time gone?)  and it was the month when what would have been my class graduated from the school I had to leave.  I watched my brother with pride, and I finally was able to let go from the past.

Ah, July.  That was a good month.  I flew out to the East Coast for a beautiful week during which my Knight and I celebrated three years of dating.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about how blessed I am to have him as my boyfriend.  Given the choice of anyone in the whole world, I would always choose him.

In August I got to spend some family time... we had our second year of doing a "staycation/weekend at the lake" vacation where we biked through the *ahem* scenic city we live near.  Most of it was through very nice nature preserves, but there was that nice little tour of the place by the highway/under the highway where the hobos live (because shopping carts don't walk that far alone) and then the part where the bike trail merged with the shoulder of a very busy trucking route and then went down along a stagnant and smelly canal.  We are skipping that part next time.  But the part where we went to the Lake and started our Pineapple tradition was fun!

I went back to school for my third semester at my community college, quit the job at the chiropractic office that I'd had for two and a half years and watched as three of my siblings tried out soccer for the first time.  That's Brother A in the green shirt above, Sister MR and Sister R played as well and they were all pretty good at it!  Brother T tried out flag football, and we are all hoping that next year we can find a football team for him to play on - with my cousins all graduated from college now, we miss our football games!

After almost a year of absence from the Midwest, my Knight finally was able to come back and visit (my brothers were ecstatic, haha).  It was a blessing that he was able to come out over the weekend that marked the one year anniversary of my grandpa passing away... we had a memorial mass said for him, and then dinner with the family at my grandma's house.  It's still really tough, but we laughed and it was good to be together and remember him.  The pumpkins in the photograph are ones my Knight and I picked out together. He couldn't take his on the plane so I kept it and carved out the Bruins logo on his, and the Blackhawks logo on mine.

November started off with the wedding of my cousin and the really great guy who was brave enough to join our crazy family!  The wedding was beautiful and the party was a blast.  It was wonderful to have everyone together to celebrate the new life together of two pretty awesome people.  The rest of November saw a bit of stress as I balanced two jobs (I started up my second one the last week in October) and increasing assignments from school as the semester got to a close.  Oh yes, and I got my wisdom teeth out!

And that brings us to December!  I will admit - while I was relieved to be on Christmas break, I was a little sad to say goodbye to the semester.  I had some really awesome classes (See above? That was me serving wine as a school assignment) and I got to know a really incredible teacher, whom I am very much looking forward to having more classes with next semester.  Advent came and went - too quickly, I think - and Christmas was beautiful, as always.

Now the year is drawing to a close... and I am very excited to see what 2015 holds.

December 27, 2014

The Last Goodbye

If you haven't heard the song that graces the credits of the final Hobbit film.... you are missing out.  I have never had a song that moved me so much.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I cry every time that I hear it.  I've just spent the last twenty minutes listening to various covers on YouTube, and each one keeps making me cry over again.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings where very much a part of my childhood.  I discovered the Hobbit when I was 12 or 13 and fell in love... I read and re-read The Lord of the Rings every year for a good five years before I hit college and somehow life ended up getting too hectic.

I will admit along with anyone else, that the changes to The Hobbit trilogy haven't exactly been my cup of tea.  The second movie in particular, I cannot stand... the first was alright, and the third I actually enjoyed.  But this song - it is the perfect ending to the last visit to Middle Earth.

When Bilbo returned to the Shire, I was crying in the movie theater.  Knowing that this was the last time we would see the green hills of Hobbiton for many a year, having them end with the same lines as starting out Gandalf's visit in the Lord of the Rings... having things come full circle like that.... and then hearing the beautiful, haunting melody of The Last Goodbye play.

If that all wasn't enough, it's sung by Billy Boyd, by Pippin.  I can picture Pippin singing this song, surrounded by the Fellowship, this being a folk song of the Hobbits, sung at gatherings and goodbyes throughout the years.  It's not just Bilbo saying goodbye to the dwarves, it's Middle Earth saying goodbye to us, the fans who have watched and loved it throughout the years.

And.... I just watched the Official Music video for the first time, after I wrote that last paragraph above... and yeah.  I'm going to have to stop now because I'm losing it.

Here are some lovely covers if anyone is interested in joining me in bawling their eyes out.

The Last Goodbye - Original, not music video version if you can't handle the music video

The Last Goodbye - Rachel Hardy

The Last Goodbye - Piano/Cello cover, Peterr Khan

The Last Goodbye - Juggernoud1 and Karilene

The Last Goodbye - Violin, Taylor Davis

The Last Goodbye - Rock version, Phedora

December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas to All!

Christmas came and went in what felt like a blink of an eye, and yet there are still eleven days left to celebrate!  We didn't have snow this year, but that is alright.

Because we did have Christmas lights...

And a lovely tree...

 and more Christmas lights...

And family...

And fun gifts...

And we had Jesus.

Have a very Merry and Blessed Christmas season!

December 16, 2014

Maybe People Aren't That Bad After All

I am still more or less in the "honeymoon" stage of my job - as in, I don't hate humanity yet... well...  some of the time. There's been days.  I've heard that working in Hospitality really makes you hate people, and I can believe it.  I could tell you about some guests that we've had... yeah.  I don't completely hate humanity yet, but I'm well on my way.

To be fair though, the majority of our guests are really awesome people.  They are friendly, kind, easy to please.  The ones who come back for multiple visits get to know us, and it's always a pleasure to look up and see a familiar face walking through the doors.  We've made some good friends from our guests, and it's usually these guests that remind us that warm, wonderful human beings aren't mythical creatures after all.

My example for you today...

Last night, one of our frequent guests checked back in for his last visit before Christmas.  As I was getting the keys for his room, he pulled out a small stack of envelopes and handed them to me, asking if I would mind giving them to our sales manager and assistant general manager, and the staff.  And then he handed me my own envelope and one for the girl that I had been working with earlier that night.

Inside, I found a $10 gift card to Starbucks and just the sweetest note.  It said:

Thank you for your warm and inviting welcome each week to my second home for the past 6 months.  You have truly made these trips more enjoyable. You and others on this staff are one of the only things I look forward to when travelling here each week. Keep flashing me that beautiful smile and I will be sure to continue having wonderful stays. Thank you very much.  Wishing you a warm and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my house to yours.

It's guests like that who make dealing with the problem guests all worth it, and really make me love my job.

Maybe people aren't that bad after all. =]

December 13, 2014

Before Scrooge: A Short Story

This is a short I wrote as part of an online writers group.  If anyone has any feedback or suggestions, I'm open to revisions!

“Now please, do try and remember to keep straight the list of people you have to visit tonight… Christmas Eve only comes once a year and ‘twould be disastrous if you were to make a mess of things.”
“Of course Father, you know that I am organized and thoughtful and…”
“Far too prone to dwelling on the past for a tad too long, my dear Ghost.  Now go along.”

                She took a breath and stepped into the room, glancing lightly around as she did so.  Christmas Eve was always such a busy time.  A busy time, but an exciting time.  A time when lives were to be changed.  Her eyes fell on the figure sleeping in the bed, widening slightly as they took in the disheveled, dirty covers, the paper thin clothing, the pale, drawn skin.   The story Father Christmas had outlined for her had not quite prepared her for the poverty that she saw.
                She had taken a look into the past, and was saddened by the pain that she saw there in this once beautiful young woman.  To grow up such an unhappy child, so neglected and abused… and then to become such a hopeless young woman.  To be scorned and rejected by a suitor she loved, who could not face her past. To think that the only life she had open to her was one of selling her services to men who cared nothing of her… To be so hardened to happiness, and to hope.
                The figure in the bed stirred and then sat up with a start, eyes wide and blinking in the radiant white light that danced about the room.
                She took another breath, smiled gently and took a step forward.  “Do not be frightened child.  I am the Ghost of Christmas Past…”

“Now my dear, you remember who you are to visit?  Your elder sister is finishing her time with the first, please do not allow yourself to become distracted and caught up in the moment.”
“I know Father – but it is so difficult to be focused!  Christmas is such a bright, happy time and it is so easy to just be swept along in it all and the sights of all the red and green and the snow and the smells of the turkeys and hams and puddings and pies… and oh the sound of the caroling!”
“Yes, I know what joy this day brings to you my child, and it is good to enjoy it all.  Yet you must remember!  This is an important day for those you are to visit.  Now hurry, it is your time….”

She burst into the room, twirling around and admiring the golden glint of her new gown as it made a delightful swish around her ankles.  A laugh of delight bubbled up to her lips and she clasped her hands eagerly, looking about to admire the decorations for Christmastime.  The laugh quickly died as she realized that the brick room was bare and cold.
                Sadness touched her eyes briefly as she recalled circumstances of this poor woman she was visiting.  As quickly as it came, it was gone and with a merry laugh bursting forth she snapped her fingers at the corner of the room.  A massive, gaily decorated Christmas tree appeared with a pop and silver glitter rained down, coating the room.
                The young woman she had come to visit shot up out of bed with a gasp and stood, frozen, her eyes darting from the tree and back again to herself. 
                She watched the young woman, clapping her hands together in delight.  Oh, what wonderful things they were about to see…. As sad, and desperate as this poor girl’s past had been, she would soon realize there were still those who cared about her.  Far away, across London, was a family who still loved and cared for her.  In an apartment just ‘cross from the Cathedral was a young man who had never visited this young woman, but whose heart had been captured by a rare smile.
                “Greetings, my child!  Do not be frightened – laugh, be happy!  I am the Ghost of Christmas Present!”

“And now, for your tasks this day, the youngest of my children.  You are aware of the missions you must complete?”
“I am.”
“This is not an easy task, I realize, and every year I feel sorrow for what you must show to those that you visit.  You must not forget though, my dear,  that your task is in some ways the most important… for it is you who causes your charge to decide the road they will take.”
“Yes, Father.”
“It is time…”

                The air in the room fell several degrees colder as she entered, an effect she was well aware followed her wherever she went.  Her lips pressed in a thin line as she surveyed the room from the depths of her dark cloak.  As dreary and sad a place as any she had visited.
                Her task was the most unpleasant of the three she and her sisters were assigned to every Christmas Eve.  Yet that was the way of the world, and it must be done.  There was no choice but to continue from year to year, until such time that her prophecies became truth and her role was handed on to a younger ghost.
                The young woman she had come to see was already awake, a shawl wrapped around her thin shoulders as she sat shivering at the edge of her bed.  The woman looked warily at her, but said nothing.  Waiting for her to speak first.
                She would say nothing, only lead her forth and show her the shadows that may come to pass should nothing change.  More men, more money, more heartbreak, more pain.  A child, a birth alone in this cold room.  The death of a child.  Alcohol.  Sickness. More men.  Then finally, a young death, alone.  It was bitter and cold, but it was not her doing.  She only showed what may lay ahead.  She was the Ghost of Christmas Future.

December 9, 2014

The End is Near!

You know, I was doing pretty good with the whole blogging consistently thing for a while.  And I still have quite a few ideas floating around up in my head... but no time!  Just no time!

School is winding down to a close - much faster than I expected.  I am still having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that tomorrow is my last day of class, and then it's finals.  There is a lot to do (more in the time consuming department than actual volume) and it doesn't seem as if there will be enough time to get it all done. But by Monday it should be all done, and then I'll have a very short month break until I head back in January.

I have to say, after a semester of drinking wine every Monday and going on field trips to Eataly and working a wine festival, learning about cost control and professional development doesn't seem like it will be quite as exciting....

And, hopefully!  Once finals are done and over with, I will have the mental energy to write out all those blog posts I have filed away.  Or, more likely, I will get caught up in the planning and thrill of Christmas.  We shall see.

Until then!

December 4, 2014

We Just Want To Be Heard

I have noticed myself lately typing up statuses on Facebook and then deleting them with the thought, "Well, know one wants to read that."  They have been a mixture of random thoughts, things I've been doing, small observations that I have happened upon.  I suppose you could say I have been trying to post only meaningful statuses, and share information that people actually care about.

Catching myself with a thought of, "I'm not going to post this, who even cares?" made me start to wonder... why do we share random thoughts and observations on Facebook?  Why do we scroll down our newsfeed and find a plethora of statuses about the pretty tree we walked past, the fact that we stubbed our toe on the counter, that we just bought a zucchini for dinner tonight?  Why do we post the much reviled, vague statuses that just barely indicate that something is going on, but without sharing any information at all?  Why do we update with every thought that pops into our head?

There are countless articles out there about types of Facebook statuses that need to stop, and how we need to stop throwing personal information that no one cares about out there. Social media gets a lot of bad rap for destroying true socialization and creating a false front of "Hey, look at my perfect life!" intermingled with a healthy dose of "Oh gosh - can you just see all the drama I have to deal with???"  We all know this, we all jump in to roll our eyes and remark how annoying it is... so then why does everyone still do it?

I think the simple answer is that we just need to be heard.  We are lonely, we want someone to pay attention.  We share our random thoughts because there isn't anyone to speak them too, we want someone to hear and tell us we are funny, or profound, or smart.  We post vague, cryptic statuses when something is wrong because we want someone to know that we are hurting or upset, but we are afraid to open up and be completely vulnerable.  We share information online, because it's safer.  We could talk to someone, but it's easier to share pieces of yourself when you are face to face with a screen rather than a real person.

Opening ourselves up in person is a risk.  We might end up being laughed at  - or maybe we'll find out the hard way we aren't as funny as we think we are.  Maybe the eyes of the person we've dared to confide in will glaze over, or respond only with an awkward "Oh, I'm sorry" when we are looking for sympathy and understanding. We might end up wishing we'd never said anything at all. When we share online, the worst that can happen to us is that no one clicks the "like" button.

You can argue that social media is what caused our loneliness and insecurity and if we didn't have social media we wouldn't feel the need to over-share or under-share or sort of share on it.  Or maybe, our loneliness and insecurity was all there before and now, now it simply has a place to be let go.  You can look at it either way.  Whatever the cause, the need to be acknowledged is there.  Maybe that's why, as we continue to complain and make lists of all the Facebook statuses that need to go away, we don't stop making them.  Maybe we all just want to be heard.

November 29, 2014

And Now I Belong

I don't think I've made it much of a secret that leaving the four year college I attended for a year and a half was very, very difficult, and that I struggled with that for a long time.  It was tough moving on.  I floundered for about a year and a half - trying to figure out what I wanted to do, not really wanting to do anything or go anywhere with my life and having no motivation to move out of the job that I did enjoy, but was basically a dead end thing.

It got to the point where my mom and dad told me that I had to do something with my life - get a new job, go back to school, whatever.  Just, something.  They suggested classes at the local community college, and my younger sister had decided to go there so I figured I might as well try it and two weeks before the start of the fall semester, we applied and signed up for classes.  I'd finished all my gen eds at the first school, so I knew I should pick out a major going in.  Again, there wasn't really anything I wanted to do with my life so I scrolled through the list of majors on the website to see what my options were.

I came across the title "Meeting and Special Event Planning" and thought "well this looks cool".  I clicked on it, skimmed the titles of the classes I would need to take and what I saw sparked my interest, so I signed up.  Whenever people asked me why I picked that, I made up some story about my family always having parties, but honestly the truth is that it looked a lot more interesting than any of the other options out there so I figured, what the heck, I'll do that.

I went through my first year there... and I quickly found that I really liked my classes.  My teacher was super laid back, our classes were very informal and fun, and I learned a lot.  Even still.... I kept myself detached from the school and couldn't help but make comparisons between that and my first school.  I went there for classes, and that was it, and I had zero interest in being a part of any kind of community and I was a little embarrassed when people asked where I went to school and I answered with "just the community college" - followed up by a quick explanation as to why I was there, and not a four year school.

And then, this May, the class I would have been in graduated from my first college, and I found I was able to start letting it go.  Going back to visit the town where that school is got easier, I was able to stop making comparisons, and when this school year came around, I was really excited to get back to my classes.

Over the summer, I started working at a hotel and going back into class it was awesome to learn about something and then go to work and see it in action.  The teacher I've had my classes with this year has been the best teacher I think I have ever had (except of course for you, mom!), and she has made me want to work hard and pulled me fully into the hospitality industry to where I never want to leave it.  I know my classmates in my program a little better now, and I feel more experienced, more at home.

I was walking to class last week and looking out our huge floor to ceiling windows at the snow as it was falling in the little wooded area at the center of campus, and I was surprised with the thought "I love this school."

This past Monday, I helped to staff "The Festival of the Vines" at our local theater, an honor the hospitality students get every year.  It was an absolute blast, and afterwards we all went out to a sports bar for food and drinks and I enjoyed fantastic, interesting and deep conversation with my teachers and classmates and as I left, I realized that I felt more a part of this community of students than I ever had with any group I'd been a part of back at my old school.  It felt like home.

Somehow, without realizing it, I'd slipped from feeling detached to feeling I belonged.

November 21, 2014

And Finally, It is Friday

1. On the wisdom teeth front - the swelling is much less today!  The discomfort has gone down a bit too, and aside from some dizzyness, feeling much better than yesterday. Hurrah!

2.  Seriously - puns on this line never get old.

3.  You don't realize just how much you appreciate the simple things in life - like chewing food - until you can't.  I am done with yogurt for about the next five years, and smoothies, and last night I just wanted something that wasn't sweet because most soft foods somehow ending up being sweet food.  We had to stop by Jewel last night, and I found one of those little individual serving cup things of Hormel Chili - guys, I can't tell you how excited I was to get home and eat that.  I was starving, and it was soft, and it wasn't sweet.  Best canned chili I've ever had.

4. If you are a photographer, chances are you've heard of Lightroom - a wonderful Adobe product designed for photo editing.  A lot of semi-professional/professional photographers use it, so no shame there, and even if there was I'd still use it 'cause it's awesome.  I'd had it on my old computer, and just now I finally got around to putting it on my current laptop.  Just in time for a recent photoshoot.  

I decided in that the black and white horizontal one looks like the cover of an album, which I decided would be my imaginary Irish Folk Song cover album.  Which is non-existent, and probably always will be, because really? Me record an album?  But hey, I can dream.

5. Can you believe that Thanksgiving is already next week???  I am trying to get ahead on my Christmas planning, so that I'm not scrambling along trying to buy and make gifts at the last minute - as usual - but the time is flying by so fast!

6. In closing, I have found the poster of my life.

Happy Friday!

November 20, 2014

And All My Wisdom Is Gone

Or at least, that's what Sister R keeps telling me.  I informed her that, actually, having your wisdom teeth removed does not get rid of your wisdom, but rather is necessary for the wisdom stored therin to be released into your mind.

Praise the Lord for dental insurance.  One of the many wonderful things that I love about my job at the hotel is that even though I'm part time, I am still eligible for benefits, and the hotel management company has an awesome dental plan that allows for free cleanings two or three times a year and coverage that paid for all but $400 of my wisdom tooth extraction bill.

The teeth had been bothering me since earlier this year when the top ones came in, and then the bottom ones were a bit stuck down there so that made for a lot of fun jaw aches.  But now they are out!  And I've been told that the swelling is the worst on the third day, so if this is the most that I look like a chipmunk, I"m okay with that.

In the meantime while I recover, praise the Lord for ibuprofen, natural anti-inflammatory pills that I can take (almost) as much as I want of without it negatively interacting with the ibuprofen and bio-freeze to numb my face with!

November 13, 2014

Send the Soldiers Some Christmas!

Veterans Day is just past, and Christmas is rapidly approaching, so what better time for this request?  Iris contacted me about this wonderful project, and asked if I would mind reaching out to you, my readers.

You all know I'm in a long distance relationship, and while, no, it is not a military relationship, I know how hard it is to spend Christmas apart from the one you love most and I can certainly empathize with how much harder it must be for our men and women overseas. Please, won't you do something to help make the holidays easier for the people fighting to keep this country safe?

From Iris' blog:

Madonna University's Student Veterans Association, is asking for donations of unused Christmas cards, so we can sign them, and send them to our troops overseas who can't to make it home for Christmas...
But we need your help. Don't run away, it's simple. All you have to do is send us unused Christmas cards in good condition. If you'd like, you and your families can sign a few of them, too. This is just my little addition, but if you could spare any beautiful, Christian cards with religious art, that would be wonderful. Things can get so ugly over there, I think a beautiful card would brighten things up a bit.

So, please please please help us out or at least pass this on, send us cards so our overseas servicemen and women can have a little extra Christmas cheer from us. Let's put a Christmas card in the hand of every deployed man or woman this Christmas season. These people put their lives on the line for the freedoms we enjoy, so I think it's only right to do something for them.

Send your cards here:
Madonna University c/o Transition Office36600 Schoolcraft Rd.Livonia, MI 48150

November 11, 2014

I'll Shake it Off and Begin Again

"Because I haven't liked her for the last two years... it's a matter of principal", I explained to a friend the other night.  I'd made a post on Facebook about my urgent need for Swiftamine; I had just watched the new music video for Blank Space, and found to my horror that I really, really liked the song. Like, really. Not only that, but I loved Shake it Off as well, and based on the few second clips from the album on Amazon I had a feeling I would end up liking more of her songs as well.

Anyhow, so this friend was wondering why it was such a bad thing to admit to liking Taylor Swift.  I used to like Taylor Swift, a lot.  I can still remember the very first time I heard one of her songs on the radio.  It was "Tim McGraw", and I was in Chicago going to visit my great aunt with my family.  I liked it a lot, and the next song I heard was "Love Story", also in the car when I was being dropped off by some friends after a club meeting.  After I discovered ITunes and got my own iPod, I bought a bunch of her songs and put together my own CD, and we listened to it quite a bit.  And then I stopped.

"I'm about the same age as Taylor," I continued to explain "and I think for Speak Now and Red, I felt like I outgrew her for a bit. Especially with Red, she was just singing the same type of music about the same things and she wasn't changing or "growing up".  That, and there was the whole "country music genre" issue.  Yes, yes, I know that there is country, and there's pop country but I think there's a difference between pop country, and country pop and Taylor Swift became very heavily country pop.  It bugged me when her fans would argue that she was still country because really, she just didn't fit into that genre anymore.

And yeah, I think part of it was what I call "the bandwagon effect".  She was just too popular, her fans were too fanatical - two things I typically avoid, with a few exceptions but that's a whole other post.

So yes... the fans.  To be quite honest, "Swifties" were the biggest reason I stopped liking Taylor for a good couple of years, and why I've been reluctant to admit that I'm a fan again.  For a while, I saw way too much of the "Taylor is a goddess and you must worship her" attitude, paired with "WHAT? You don't like Taylor's song? You must be a hater.  You nasty hateful hater, you."  I swear, I'm not exaggerating.  It was all up in my newsfeed and on any comment section of anything remotely Taylor Swift related.  I knew people who would go on long defensive rants about how "poor Tay tay is hurt and abused and everyone is so mean and cruel", like, every week. And then I saw a comment (not from anyone I knew) on some photo that was poking a little fun a something Taylor had done, that whoever posted the photo should kill themselves right now - I was 100% officially done. If that was the kinds of fans she had, then Taylor and I were never ever getting back together. Like, ever.

Yet after listening to 1989 (Thank you Grooveshark!) I've found that... Taylor Swift isn't that bad anymore.  To my ears, she finally matured.  She finally made some changes and got a new look, anew genre,  new style, new subject matter for her songs.  She isn't the teenager crying over her ex-boyfriends anymore, she's taken her place as an adult performer and I think the pop genre suits her better than country ever did.  I'm still not a fan of her fans, so don't ever think I've become a Swiftie, but I'm ready to shake it off and let things begin again.

Let's party like it's 1999.  Oh wait, no, that's a different thing.

November 10, 2014

Curse of the Comfy Clothes

I'm telling you guys... classes have been canceled so many times this week that I want at least $100 bucks back from school.  $75?  Even $50?

Anyhow... as I've mentioned before, this semester has been a little bit of a rough one in terms of actually getting homework done.  I've been finding it hard to motivate myself to pick up my textbook and read, and once I do I find it hard to stay focused and not go wandering off on the internet.  In my defense, I have been busy, especially these past two weeks.  Between work, and classes and life, and now work and then other work and then classes and maybe life if I have time for it, the last thing I want to do when I'm at home is work on school.

I mean to, I really do.  I'll come home, change into my comfy clothes and get settled on the couch with the textbooks and notebook beside me... and then find two hours later that I've just been on Pinterest or watched a few episodes of something on Netflix.

So I thought about it, 'What can I do to get myself more motivated to work?  Why can't I seem to get focused when I come home?'  And eventually the answer came to me.

It's the clothes.  Well, at least part of it is the clothes, maybe even most of it.  But it's the comfy clothes.

See I never, ever wear yoga pants out of the house, and it's rare that I even wear a t-shirt out.  So for me, putting on yoga pants and a t-shirt tells my brain "Hey, it's time to kick back and relax because you don't have to go anywhere!"  This is great for relaxing and unwinding after a long and stressful day, but when it comes to actually getting stuff done?  Not so much.

I started paying attention, and I realized that when I don't change my clothes, and when I bring my homework to the dining room table rather than the couch, I get so much more done. My mind knows it's time to focus and get stuff done, and I can, and it's not a problem.  As soon as I move to the couch, or change up into something more comfortable - well forget it.  I've noticed it outside of homework as well... If I'm dressed for the day, I'm much more motivated to clean my room, practice my guitar, do things around the house.  If I'm in yoga pants, well probably not much of anything will get done.

Maybe some people can work better in their sweats and sweatshirts, and I used to be able to (to a certain extent) back when I was living on campus, but not anymore.  And so going back to the first sentances of this post, that's why when I found out in my 8am class that the 11am class was canceled for today, I decided to stay on campus in the school library, rather than going home.

How about you?  What environment and outfit do you work the best in?

November 7, 2014

Finally, It Is Friday

1.  Another week gone by!  The time passes so quickly... I always have things I mean to do in a week, like write a few more blog posts, practice the guitar, drink a bottle of wine, do homework but somehow before I can get around to it the end of the week pops up again and I'm like "Shoot! Saturday is going to be really busy!"

2.  My cousin's boyfriend is a sportswriter, and a year ago a college film graduate asked if he would be the subject of his documentary that he was making.  I actually haven't gotten a chance to watch it yet, but I found out the film is going to LA for a film festival, so I probably should!  I know someone famous now, haha.

3.  Speaking of videos, the lovely Iris has a YouTube series now, that you should totally go and watch.  That girl is just so lovely and talented!

4.  While we were down in the southern part of the state for my cousin's wedding last weekend, we stopped at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows for some family photos... which of course, was not complete without a few goofy ones!  I love my family.

5. And one last video, before I have to run off and get ready for my oral surgeon consultation for my wisdom teeth (yay).  If you are from Chicago, or aren't from Chicago and somehow still need convincing that Chicago is the most beautiful city in this country... watch this!

Happy Friday!

November 6, 2014

When You're Ready

I think any of us girls with boyfriends, and even those without, can agree that attending a wedding and watching friends or family members standing at the alter, reciting their vows to the person they love most in the world, is more than enough to send us into swirls of giddy daydreams and "wedding-fever".  It seems like the day can't come fast enough when it will be our turn, and we will be the one standing up there in a gorgeous gown staring into the eyes of that oh so special man.

It's a hard wait when you still haven't met the guy of your dreams.  It's even harder once you've found him because, well, you finally found him and can't until death do us part just start now?  Holding your horses and waiting until the time is right is incredibly tough and frustrating at times.  I know that for you guys, it's tough to wait it out as well.

They say there is never a perfect time to get married.  You'll never be at the perfect spot in your life/career. you'll never be the most ideal candidate for marriage, heaven knows your finances will never ever be in the perfect spot.  When it comes to that, we can't hold out for perfect, we have to hold out for good enough-ish and hope as we jump that God is going to be there to catch us when we land.  Because really, things like perfect finances and your career aren't necessary to a holy marriage.

What is necessary, however, is that you are ready.

Can you honestly say that you are ready to be married?  That you want it with your whole heart and soul to be joined to this man for the rest of your life, and guys, are you ready to be joined to this woman until the day you die?  Can you look into their eyes and know beyond a shadow of the doubt that for better or for worse, you are all in, and you are ready to face whatever comes next as long as they are the one standing by your side?

Knowing that you are ready, and you have no hesitations, doubts or second guessing about whether you have the right person, is I think the question that matters more than any other when you get ready to tie the knot.  Finances and your career can be negotiated with, realizing you weren't ready after you've said "I do" is a whole lot harder.

Last weekend, my cousin and her fiancee got married, and it was a beautiful ceremony and awesome reception.  As we were getting ready to head out that night, my aunt/Mother of the Bride was talking with us, about the day, how everything went.  She said, "I wanted some time alone with her before the wedding, and I sat down and said 'You know if you don't want to do this, you don't have to.  We can get in the car and I'll drive away.'  She was like 'Mom!' and I said 'I'm serious! If you feel pressured at all or you don't want to do this, we can go.'  She said 'Mom, I am ready to walk down that aisle and see my best friend waiting for me at the other end.'  And all that morning, [my cousin's fiancee] kept asking me, 'What does she look like? I can't wait to see her'.  Both of them couldn't wait to see each other.  And I was like, 'They're ready.'"

It was a beautiful story, and watching the two of them that night you could tell.  This was serious for them and they meant their commitment to each other.  They were ready.

November 4, 2014

Why Don't We?

The culture we live in has a tendency to prefer the negative over the positive.  Even if we aren't meaning to, and we don't intend to think that way, we lean towards seeing things in a negative light, towards seeing what is missing rather than looking at what is already there.  We focus on what we still haven't done, rather than taking more than a brief moment to appreciate what we have accomplished.

It makes for a stressful and tiring world at times.  As human being we long for praise and recognition, to be given attention and told that we did something good and right.  When we are continuously told that we did this wrong, or we need to go and fix that now, or we need to buckle down or else we'll never reach that goal that is somehow always one step ahead of us.... it drags us down, and discourages.  This isn't to say that we shouldn't get (constructive) criticism, or we should ignore instruction or be reminded of what we hope to attain but these only motivate us for so long.  After a while, what used to get us going makes us sit back and think "Well why on earth am I even doing this any how?"

Why don't we give the positive as much screen time as the negative?

When we are learning something, we are given instruction and coaching, told when we did something wrong or that next time there's a better way, and we are occasionally given praise for a job well done.  As we master the skill or lesson, however, commentary goes away and we are left with "If I'm not saying anything, it means you are doing a good job".  I am as guilty of this as anyone else, but I know from my own experience that instruction slowly stopping is far from being the same as being told "Hey, you're doing a good job with this and learning quickly!"

When I was learning to drive, I remember getting very frustrated a couple of months in.  When I first started, I was of course receiving a lot of instruction and correction.  Gradually it went away, but I didn't take this to mean I was getting the hang of it.  Instead, I got upset because I didn't know if I was doing it right yet.  I remember crying one time because I didn't know if I was getting any better at driving or not, and my mom being surprised because, since I was getting better, she didn't need to correct me any more.

A month after I started my job at the hotel, I sat down with my GM and AGM and reviewed my progress.  They did point out the areas where I was doing really well, and mentioned some specific examples of times where I did a good job, and it was great.  At the end, they pointed out some areas I needed to work on, and I made a conscious effort after that to fix and grow in those areas.  I wasn't sure if I was improving though, and I waited for someone to either say "Hey you need to keep working on this," or "It looks like you've got it!"  Neither came, and finally I went and asked my AGM if I'd gotten any better.  She told me that I was doing a great job now, which was good to know... but left me wondering if anyone would have ever mentioned it if I hadn't asked.

Humans are a bit like flowers in that we need the rain to grow, but if it rains too heavily and for too long we end up wilting and drowning in it.  We need the sunlight too in order to really blossom and be beautiful.  Positive encouragement means so much to us, and I know that personally I have often written down or printed out words of praise that I have been given so I can treasure them and go back when I need to hear them again.  Yesterday, I had my wine professor tell me I had a talent for tasting wine and I was actually better at picking scents and tastes out than he was.  I've been struggling a bit in that class to get (by my standards) a good grade, so hearing that from him brightened up the rest of my day and made me feel wonderful.

We all know how good positive comments and encouragement makes us, we all value and treasure and hold on to them.  So why then, do we automatically tend towards the negatively phrased critiques and instructions, why do we forget to give credit and praise when we see someone overcome a goal or master a skill.

Why don't we tell people when they are doing good?

October 31, 2014

Threads of Friday

1. It's Friday again already!  As you read this, I'm on my way down to St. Louis for a wedding... my cousin is getting married tomorrow, and it's going to be awesome.  She's marrying a great guy that fits perfectly into our crazy family, and I'm so happy for her.  It's going to be a beautiful day, followed by an epic night of dancing and partying.

2. Continuing the thread of partying, I have discovered that I (horror of horrors!) enjoy dancing to Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off."  What's worse, I listned to the preview of the songs from 1989 on Amazon and I LIKED THEM. Especially "Out of the Woods". Guys, I can't like Taylor Swift.  I mean, I used to like her, but then her music got 'eh' and her fans got ridiculously out of control and weirdly obsessive and were a major turn off.  The "swifties" more than anything where why I stopped listening to her.  But now I'm starting to like her again.  What is this madness?

3.  Continuing the thread of music, I listened to Carrie Underwood's Something in the Water.  I love it when country singer's release a song with a Christian theme to it.  It's never blatant in your face "HEY THIS IS A CHRISTIAN SONG", and I love that so many country artists have a faith that they aren't afraid to share with their fans.  It's a beautiful song, go listen to it.  I'm one of those crazy Catholics that actually likes Amazing Grace and gets super excited whenever I hear a new version/incorporated into a song, so I just love the ending of the song.

4. Continuing the thread of  jobs (because I was listening to that song at work), Day two of working two part time jobs and full time school is going well... so far.  I'm at job #2 writing this on Thursday, I've been here since 8 and get to leave at 2 to drive down to job #1 and work there from 3-11... so, we'll see how that goes.

5. Continuing the thread of jobs... Job #1 has an awesome tradition of doing a staff pumpkin carving contest.  Each department decorates a pumpkin - the only rule being that it has to light up - and then we let the guests vote for a week.  Based on guest conversation... I think the Front Desk is going to win with our "Haunted Hotel"

Yes, we put our managers' names on the tombstones...

6. Continuing the thread of traditions... Traditions really are the best.  And so are friends. And so is football.  So football traditions with one of my best friends totally rocks.  My friend attends the college that was the rival football team of my first school so of course every year we have to go to the epic battle for the rivalry trophy together.  I wear my school colors, she wears hers, we cheer on our own teams and rib the rival and it's awesome. Sadly, she won this year... but I guess that's okay.  My team is totally better and we won the last two years anyhow.

7. Continuing the thread of... traditions, and partying and Halloween... Happy Halloween!  I just came up with a costume last night, and I think I figured out a way to pop up wearing it every now and then throughout the day.  I'll snap a picture for you and put it in next Friday's post.

Happy Friday!

Ps. And going off of that thread, isn't this an amusing and intriguing graphic?

h/t Elenatintil, h/t huffingtonpost

October 27, 2014

Confessions of a GSA/Hospitality Student: An Inauguration

I'm in my second year as a double major in Hospitality Management and Meeting and Special Events at a junior college, and should be graduating next December.  Yay!  For six months now, I've been working as a Guest Service Agent, GSA at an awesome hotel and let me tell you, both things have been an adventure!

So consider this a trial run of an ongoing, sporadic series I'm thinking of starting up.  The hospitality industry is full of people and stories and adventures, and I'm thinking that I'll have a lot of things to share with you.  Not a single day is ever the same, and you can never predict what is going to happen - either in the workplace, or in my classroom!

Does this sound like something you, my dear readers, would be interested in?  If you have any questions, and curiosity about the world of hospitality feel free to ask me and I'll do my best to give you a blog post answering your questions.

While this is meant to be an inaugural post for my series, I feel like I should share at least something with you... so... my first confession.

Being a Hospitality major isn't a life long dream I've had, or even something I thought about doing prior to starting school.  After I had to leave my first college because of financial issues, I was pretty much done with school, and done with figuring out what I wanted to do with my life.  My parents let me flounder around for about a year and before they started pushing me to do something other than the little dead end part time job I had.

I resisted for a while, but the idea of going back to school grew on me and then it was two weeks before the start of the fall semester at my junior college when I found myself scurrying to apply and sign up for classes.

I needed to figure out what the heck I was going to be even studying, and none of the areas that I could think of off the top of my head were very appealing.  So I went to the junior college website and scrolled through their list of majors.  The one that struck my eye was the Hospitality Management and Meeting and Special Events Majors.  Hmm.... Meeting and Special Events sounded like it could be fun.  I checked out the required classes and liked what I saw, so I thought "Why not? Sounds more interesting than anything else I've checked out."  So I did. And I fell in love.

And that, dear readers, is how I became a Hospitality Student.

October 17, 2014

Finally Fall-day

1. It's fall out today!  There is sunshine that we haven't seen since Sunday, and the leaves are all starting to turn beautiful and brilliant colors.  This may call for a pumpkin spice latte on my way to work later today...

2. In other news, I just picked up a glass of water and dumped it into my lap because I didn't pay attention to wear my mouth was.

3.  My Knight came to visit for four days at the beginning of the week, and it was a short but wonderful visit.  We went to my siblings soccer and flag football games, attended a Byzantine Liturgy (I'm in love) and went out for brunch with my family, gave him a tour of my campus and introduced him to the relaxed, often off topic and fun learning style that is classes in the hospitality department, went to the pumpkin farm, fixed the faulty wiring on my car battery after it died and left us stranded in the rain, went to dinner at my favorite Irish pub and walked around my old college campus.  This weekend was the one year anniversary of my grandfather's death and it was very special to have my Knight with me for the mass and dinner with my family.  It was a beautiful time.

Without meaning to, we ended up picking out identical pumpkins

4. A Capella groups are pretty awesome.  I discovered the Home Free Vocal Band on YouTube, and their renditions of This is How We Roll and All About That Bass are pretty hilarious.  Then they joined up with Avi Kapalan from Pentatonix for a brilliant performance of Ring of Fire.  Check them out!

5. GuysintwoweeksI'mstartingupaninternshipwhichmeansI'llhavetwopart-timejobsandonefull-timeschoolandI'mkindafreakingoutalittle.

6. I finished my Katniss cowl!  It turned out lovely and I'm having so much fun wearing it.  Of course the first thing I did once it was finished was dress up and take a photoshoot...

7.  It's getting close to the time where we get to sign up for spring semester classes and I actually took the time to look at the course requirements and what I still need... and I only have six classes left!  Providing the classes line up properly in the fall, I'll be graduating with my associates in Meeting and Event Planning next December!  It would work out nicely to do three classes this Spring and three next Fall... but if I go full time two semesters in a row I get a discount on insurance, and so I'm contemplating the insanity of taking three 3-credit hour classes, one 2-credit hour class and a 1-credit vocal or guitar lesson to bring me up to full time, which makes a total of 5 classes plus two part time jobs.  We'll see.

Well, time for a full weekend of work!  Happy Friday!