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?