Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Embracing the 80s



Everywhere I look these days, I see 80s fashion coming back to life. The ruffled and appliqued sweaters of my grade school yearbook photos have morphed into delicate cardigans with sewn on lace and beaded boutonnieres. The patterned stretch and stirrup pants that housed my scrawny chicken legs now manifest themselves in jeggings, leggings and patterned hose into which I willingly squeeze my ever-expanding thighs. I find myself wasting whole lunch hours lusting after incalculable amounts of patterned tunics, asymmetrical necklines, and neon colored tops. What gives?

When I look around at the Paula Abdul-esque sprites scampering through my junior high's hallways, I have to wonder: am I really opening my arms to the 80s revival trends because they are back en vogue, or am I just trying to recapture the carefree attitude and devilish sass I possessed when I first wore those trends? Becoming an adult has domesticated my fashion sensibilities (or lack thereof) in countless ways. My necklines have risen, my wrists have de-bangled, and my color palette has dulled. I've become productive, practical and prudish. I now see my sense of style as a way to communicate to the world that I am to be listened to, counted on, and heeded. I miss they days when I could use my sense of style to experiment.

If you had told me five years ago that I'd routinely be wearing leggings to work, I would have laughed. Now, every time I pull those leggings and drapey tops on, I'm thrilled. It's like wearing comfortable yoga pants to work! No ironing! I can play with patterns and colors in a way I haven't since I wore my Spice Girls CD out dancing in my bedroom. Wearing these trends not only lets me recapture some of my youth, it gives me a springboard to play with my clothes the way I did long ago. Is the fashion world trying to reach out to us newly minted adults with their 80s nostalgia, or have we hopped on the bandwagon along with the teenyboppers because we secretly long for those years?


Monday, February 27, 2012

It Should Be Easy

In the past few weekends, I've had a lot of amazing girl time with my gal pals. Kev has bee wildly busy with work and finishing up another quarter in his MBA studies, and I've been making the most of flying solo by prioritizing my girls. Truthfully, I've written about it before and I'll say it again; I'm not great at making plans without Kev. But a sister needs her sistas, and I'm glad I've gotten to catch up with my original crew.

After spending time with two different girl groups, there was one theme that I had heard over and over. Two of my very best friends are having significant boy troubles. Those are their stories to tell, but both of them are stressing for the same reasons. They are getting older, they want to find the one, and they want to feel like they are really building something special with somebody they care about.Both of were saying the same things:

"I gave him everything I had."
"I was scared to tell my friends until I knew it was going somewhere."
"I don't understand what he needs to 'figure out.'"
"I have no idea how to meet someone."
"I don't want to start over."
"I'm ready to find someone."
"I'm doing my part, why isn't he doing his?"


I totally empathize with these ladies, in that as we get older, our groups of friends are really starting to pair off. I love these ladies and want them around as much as possible, but truth be told, we really do suck. They aren't going to meet a lot of new single gentlemen if they hang out with their same old groups every weekend. It just ain't gonna happen.

But more importantly, I told them both the same thing. The dating and figuring out where you are headed is the easy part. It shouldn't be hard to fall in love with someone with whom you want to build something serious. Falling in love isn't a choice. Staying in love is. The dating part should be the easy part. If it's not, it's probably not going to go anywhere. It sounds harsh, but it's true.

Why waste the effort on somebody you don't look forward to seeing? Why take your fabulous self off the market for someone who isn't equally as smitten with you? Real true love doesn't listen to your objections. It grabs you by the teeth, drags you along with it, and leaves you so high strung that you daze off at work, dreaming of that special someone. You look forward to seeing them, but more importantly, your life seems a little bet less rich, less sparkly, less vibrant, when they are not around. And until you get that magical foot-popping, swoony giggling fit around that person, well, they aren't worth your time.

Life is too short to get lots in the should and shouldn'ts. Love knows that and doesn't pay them any mind. Wait for it ladies, because when that special someone comes, he (or she) will be so, so, so, so worth it. I promise.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Reads: The Echomaker

Quick Plot Summary Mark, a Nebraska boy, sidesteps death when his vehicle spins out of control on a desolate highway. His sister, Karen is quick to come to his aide. In his long recovery, he develops Capgras syndrome, which causes him to believe that Karen has been replaced with a body double. As Karen struggles to aide his recovery, she enlists the help of a renowned psychologist/author and befriends Mark's extremely capable nursing home assistant. As a group, Mark and his closest loves struggle to redefine their relationships and rebuild their pasts together.

My Thoughts Ultimately, I found this book extremely frustrating and slow moving. While I was interested in the characters' lives, I felt their stories could have been condensed. The ending, in particular, was nauseating. After nearly 300 meandering narrative/descriptive pages, the story ended a little too tidily and without much descending action. It was abrupt, jerky, and the pages of crane stories mixed in disrupted the flow of the book as a whole. I had heard great things about Richard Powers' writing, but overall, I don't think I'll be revisiting his work.

Take Aways While I didn't love the story, I am indebted to this book for making me think about relationships. How much of our relationships with the people we love most are built on a shared past? How much do we lose overall when the ones we love are physically present, but our shared pasts have vanished? The day I finished this movie, I ventured out with some gal pals to go see The Vow (Channing Tatum and the always adorable Rachel McAdams- wife has car accident, loses all memory of husband but not memories of people from 5 years ago), which plays on very similar themes in a more suspense-laden way.

Kev and I have known each other for thirteen years. During that time, our relationships with one another have morphed from friends, to friends with benefits. From confidants to co-conspirators. Somehow, I feel that if one of us were to lose the memory of one of those stages, that the foundation for our relationship would crumble, leaving us without routines and expectations for one another. On another level, my relationships with my siblings have evolved over time- from that of a bossy older sister dominating, to a partnership where we challenge each other's ideas, listen to each other's opinions and work together to take our family into a new generation. If they suddenly became convinced that I was a stranger out to kill them, my life would lose some of the very people who have made me who I am today.

While The Echomaker was a dud of a plot, the ideas behind it could be masterful. As a result of reading this, I'm definitely going to make sure to reach out to my siblings and stay in closer contact with them when we are not together. You never know what the future might bring.

What are you reading this weekend? I've moved on to Girls Don't Poop by Jen Ashton.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

10 Things on Tuesday

1) Sorry for being a bad blog friend- I've been in kind of a blog slump lately. Don't worry, though, I'm planning some heavy posting soon!

2) I had a three day weekend this weekend, and apparently I was so relaxed that I slept through 4 snoozes on my alarm clock. I woke up 10 minutes later than my usual departure time, and I've been flustered all day. My boss walked in on me straightening my hair at school and just laughed at me. Whoopsies.

3) Kev and I have two super fun trips planned this summer: Peru for two weeks in July (for our anniversary!) and a trip to Vegas with his dad's side of the family for Labor Day. I am so excited; I always saw my adult life as full of travel. I don't function well unless I know when my next trip is.

4) I just taught a unit on semi-colons, and now I want to use them all the time. I feel smarter than most people; I can use semi-colons correctly. Booyah.

5) This past week, Kev and I cleaned out our bookshelves and sold our unneeded books to MarketFresh books in Evanston- an amazing bookstore that prices its used books by the pound. I'm hoping they give us a decent buyback rate so I can perk up my classroom libraries with some new titles.

6) Really, though, it was super difficult to decide which books to keep and which to get rid of. Kev and I are both avid readers, and when we combined our libraries, we realized we had a TON of books. So many, in fact, that our last bookshelf collapsed for no reason a few weeks ago. Finally, we decided that if we wouldn't recommend or loan the book to a friend, we shouldn't keep it around. I hate weeding. I know it's a necessary part of maintaining a library, but I hate it. My books are my friends.

7) February usually drags for me, but this month has seemed to fly by! Maybe I just had such a terribly stressful January and February last year that made it woeful. Or maybe it's the super-mild winter that we have had so far- either way I'm not complaining. Bring on March!

8) I'm really sick of having my house look like a hot mess, and I'm playing around with some weekly chore schedule ideas. Do any of you have any that work well? I'd love to see them. Pinterest has a few, but I'd much prefer the tried and true methods.

9) I hate when people pronounce Pinterest as Pin-ter-est. I don't know why, but it grates on my nerves. Pin-trest people, Pin-trest. It also irks me when I see people planning for life events before they happen (baby boards for women not yet pregnant, wedding boards for people not yet engaged) Live in the now, peeps.

10) Speaking of Pin-trest, I made a magnificentlow calorie pumpkin bread yesterday. It was awesome- so moist and delicious, and low-cal to boot. Hells yes. Even my pumpkin-loathing husband ate some. Now, I totally want to try subbing applesauce for other desserts. Anybody have good recipes?

Love you all! Happy random Tuesday! What's on your mind today?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lovey-Dovey Linkup

Hi All! I've seen this lil meme floating around the blogosphere thanks to From Mrs. to Mama and I've been totally sucked in to reading everybody's stories. So, for all of you new readers and followers out there, here is the story of Kev and I- a fourteen year saga.

1. How long have you and your significant other been together?
Kev and I will have been together for five years in May, but we've known each other for almost 14!

2. How did you meet? {What's your "love" story?}

I was dating a very shy baseball player in Kev's grade, and we were hanging out in our high school's lounge. I was a freshman, and Kev was a sophomore. Suddenly, this super personable guy came up and started talking to my shy boyfriend and I. This guy (Kev) was selling frisbees for his business class, and was trying to wheedle us into buying them. While I did not buy a frisbee, I did slowly begin seeing Kev around more and more. Baseball player and I broke up, and Kev and I started talking. That spring, we went on a date with a group of friends to Great America, and Kev was the perfect gentleman- kissing me on the Skywhirl, holding my hand in line, and giving me his Abercrombie long sleeved shirt when I got cold. As the night ended, he promised me that when he got his driver's license in a few weeks, that we would be boyfriend and girlfriend. I was a freshman, about to date an older man with a CAR, and I was through the moon.

Well, the weeks went by. Kev got his car, and suddenly realized he was AWESOME. His 1990 Honda (Jane Honda) became his first love, and the promised for boyfriend-girlfriend status did not materialize. We did, however, become great friends while we dated other people. Through high school, we talked nearly every night on AIM (oh, the good old days), and solved each other's relationship problems. We went to different colleges, made new friends, and talked less.

Fast forward 4 years. I had just finished college and moved back home with my parents. It was Easter, and I saw Kev sign on to AIM (good old technology), and realized we hadn't talked in a long time. We quickly chatted, and set up a date to get together for dinner the following week. When I picked him up in MY car at his parents' house, gone were his Abercrombie t-shirts; he had donned a corduroy blazer and glasses for the occasion. He looked older, wiser, and still had his trademark charm. We had a great date, and I made plans to go visit him in the city the following weekend for his birthday. The rest, as they say, is history. Booze and a four year absence made us quickly realize we had to be together.

3. If married, how long have you been married?
We got married on the 4th of July, 2009. It was awesome.

4. If you are married, where did you get married at? Big or small wedding?
We got married with 330 of our close friends and family at Kevin's grade school church. It was huge, rambunctious, fun and very meaningful. My grandparents took the last shuttle back to the hotel with us, we polka-ed, my other grandmother caught the bouquet, and I dropped pizza face down on my dress at 2 am. It was loud and loving, just like us.

5. Do you have any nick-names that you call one another? Do share! We call each other shmoop or shmoopsie. I'll call him honey or hot stuff if I want to make him laugh, and he always calls me Colie or Coli-polie.

6. Name 3 things you love most about your honey.
He is smart, he is handsome, he makes me laugh, and he challenges me to be my best self every single day.

7. Tell us how he proposed?
That sneaky guy let me plan my own proposal! We had just moved into our first apartment together that week, and he asked me what I felt like doing for our first Friday night at our new place. I decided we should buy fancy ingredients and cook in together. After dinner, he said he had a surprise for dessert, and brought a tray with angel food cake and champagne. Then, he got down on one knee, told me he loved me, and proposed. Afterwards, he said that one of our good friends wanted us to stop out so she could see the ring. We walked to a favorite bar, and he had all of our friends packed inside for a surprise bash.

8. Is he a flowers and teddy bear kind of guy for v-day, or strawberries, champagne, and rose petals? We are generally champagne, sweatpants and heart shaped pizza kind of valentine's day people, but last year he surprised me with a "mystery date" to a fancy dinner and to see Les Miserables downtown. Swoon.

9. Are you a sunset dinner on the beach kind of girl, or pop a movie in and relax on the couch? We switch it up. The key to good romance is variety.

10. Tell us one thing you'd like to do with your significant one day. If you could do anything? Go anywhere? Travel the world, raise a beautiful family of happy kids, and still hold hands when we are in our eighties.

11. Tell us what you plan on doing on this Valentine's Day.
Cooking tuna steaks and potatoes for dinner, having some wine, and snuggling on the couch for some movie time.

12. Are you asking for anything this Valentine's day? Nope, we're not big Valentine's gift people.

13. Give us one piece of advice of keeping a relationship strong and full of love. Never, ever take each other for granted. Remember you are lucky to be together.

14. Show us a picture of what love means to you.
Family inside jokes, with Kev fitting right in :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

On Being a Hermit

Recently, I read an excellent article about living alone from the New York Times Basically, this article contends that living alone is more acceptable now than it ever has been in previous social times. It also says that contrary to popular belief, living alone means being more, rather than less social. Long story short, I completely agree with this article. It explains why I'm becoming such a crazy cat lady in my old age.

When I was younger, and lived with roommates, I constantly made plans. No, I wasn't living alone, but I was extremely social. I had each weekend booked up with things to do, and I actively organized lots of plans with my friends. When Kev and I moved in together and got engaged, I swore that we wouldn't become "that married couple." You know the ones. They spend all their time with friends talking about their wedding and then once it is over- POOF. They disappear into a cloud of matching linen sets and formal flatware, never to be heard from again. Indeed, I started this very blog in the hopes of refuting some of those stereotypes. To make matters more complicated, Kev and I had very few local, close friends who were in serious relationships at the time we got married, so they were all happy to predict that big scary changes were coming our way.

Now, after nearly three years of marriage, I'm realizing that my friends were right, to a certain extent. Kev and I have a cozy condo with two cats, and complicated work lives. Kev is still getting his master's degree, and I am still recovering from finishing mine in June (not to mention starting a new job). If we are invited to weekend events, we almost always say yes, but if no invite is forthcoming, well, we get lazy. We stay in. We drink champagne and wear sweatpants and don't get out of bed until noon. Because we can.

I think there is something about having an automatic partner in crime that makes the rest of the world seem a little less pressing. Four years ago, I would have jumped at the chance of a free weekend to organize a big outing to an unusual restaurant or one of Chicago's many fests. Now, it all seems like a lot of effort, when I can use that time to lounge with my favorite person in the world. I would argue that I've gotten less social as a result of living with someone I love, rather than more. I feel some guilt about this. I know I've let some friendships slide and grown apart from some people from whom I was inseparable, but that's life. I know I need to find a happy medium between "us" time and "the world" time, and I know I'm wasting valuable opportunities to venture out in the city. I know that time is ticking before we have kids, and it may never be this easy to get out and about again, but really....I'm just not as motivated as I used to be.

Shacking up has made me a hermit.

Do you think that living with someone you love makes you more or less social? Why?
Are you offended when your cohabitating friends don't call?
Am I a terrible person?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday- Foxy Loxy

I don't know why I like this picture, I just do. Something about the chipped nose, perhaps.

Monday, February 6, 2012

On Being a Sister

I am an older sister to two younger brothers and a younger sister. They are all unique, amazing individuals in completely different ways. One is in law school, one is in nursing school, and one is a host of wacky things, including thrift store connoisseur and undergrad communications major, probably in that order. Growing up, our house was loud, chaotic, and often veered wildly between angelic and World War Three. My mom had four kids in seven years, and now that I'm an adult, I'm fairly certain she qualifies for sainthood.

As we got older, my siblings became really cool, popular people. They won high school yearbook superlatives. They developed sweet dance moves. They became retreat leaders, prom queens, marathoners, bartenders, and all-around likable people. As I matured, it was hard to not feel eclipsed by them. I count those humans among the most precious people in the world to me, and my life of working, dating, and reading books often seemed rather vanilla by comparison. I'm constantly in awe of their general awesomeness. I'm constantly challenged by their deep thoughts, and reduced to tears by their offbeat hilarity. As such, it is often hard not to feel like a geeky older sister.

While my sister and I often have deep talks about everything from the existence of God to how one can craft the perfect set of reinbeers for Christmas, my brothers are American males in their 20s, and therefore don't talk about their feelings much. Therefore, the following gchat conversation with P made my day today:

P:listening to ben folds while reading. reminds me of your old "on a bender" cd
a golden oldie

me:Such a good one... I still listen to that mix

P: hells yes
your "practicum tunes" were also very good

Haha amazing memory for my old mixes....I'm super impressed

P:yes after a few car rides i stole them both for an extended period
that was my first experience with that genre and those artists
that genre and those artists
it was pretty exciting
gonna get some groceries

me: So glad I could mold your mind

P: haha you paved the way of much of my thought and experience
i am forever grateful

me: Aww that comment just made my day :) love you little bro

While I'm fairly certain that telling my brother I love him and using an emoticon in a text chat will both insure that he isn't that open about his feelings for awhile, I am in awe of the fact that he was listening during all of those long car rides to and fron The University of Iowa. And I guess what I am most awestruck by is the fact that he was listening at all.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that this conversation gives me hope. Hope that even when I'm not saying anything big, the ones I love are still watching and learning. That even when I mess up and act like a crabby jerk, these same people in my life know from a lifetime of watching me that it's just a blip in the radar. That some of the moments when I've felt farthest separate emotionally from the people I love, I still managed to reach through the barriers and connect anyway. That even if we seem different on the outside, my family and I are just going to get closer and stronger as we grow. Now, it seems, I'm the one listening to him

Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's Not Easy Being Pink

If you've been out of the loop, you may want to read. this In a nutshell, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a leading breast cancer advocacy and research group, has decided to pull the financial support they give to Planned Parenthood; a press frenzy ignited. Nancy Brinker, Komen's founder, called Planned Parenthood "a dangerous distraction from the work that still remains to be done in ridding the world of breast cancer." At first, I was livid. Now, I'm sad and angry.

Lately, it has been a difficult time to be an equality-minded woman. A few months ago, a proposed boycott of Girl Scout cookies was proposed, because some Girl Scout troops choose to discuss women's health and reproductive options. Other troops let in transsexual young men. Apparently, the right to produce a women's organization that appreciates all humans who choose the female gender, and the right to educate said people on the health options available to them is dangerous. Planned Parenthood, and the health care that it gives to women, many of whom are underprivileged, is dangerous. The underlying message I'm seeing over and over again in the media is that an educated woman is dangerous. And yet, the pink guns that is being peddled in partnership between Smith & Wesson and Komen for the Cure is not a dangerous distraction? What are we going to do, shoot cancer?

I don't understand the pressure on women who want to make informed health choices to defend that right. I don't understand why people who do not share my liberal values or feminist beliefs feel so threatened by my right to choose when I have a baby or to teach the young men and women that I teach about their options for health and self-esteem. When did our views towards women's issues become so polarizing? Five years ago, I would have said that it was a great time to be an American woman. Now, I feel that the strong backlash against liberal women comes from the uncompromising polarity of our political parties. I don't dispute that Komen for the Cure does great things, or that people want the right to teach their daughters about reproductive issues according to their families' values. I just don't understand why we would deny those that want birth control and reproductive health issues discussed in an honest and unbiased way the right to do so. After all, Komen for the Cure started because breast cancer was such a taboo and silent killer. Now STD prevention and birth control may become the next great whisper in secret. I respect others' rights to live their lives as they wish, but I'm sorely disappointed by a move that has resulted in two of the best charities that women have fighting against one another. We came so far as a society that valued women's rights. Why are we backsliding now?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Keep on Keepin' On

Yesterday was a great day at school I didn't make any progress on my to-do lists of grading, filing and reading. I didn't really get a chance to talk to any other teacher friends. I ate lunch at my desk the way I do every day, and I wasted an entire lunchtime on Pinterest. But you know what I did do well? I had a great day with my students.

For some reason, yesterday was one of those days where everything worked the way it was supposed to. My kiddos came iwth homework done and attitudes ready to contribute to class discussions, and they were suitably thoughtful about a Holocaust simple photoessay we read. In writing conferences and class discussion, I saw evidence of growth, and they even laughed at my jokes. I walked out of school feeling good about myself, and they left my classroom with smiles on their faces.

The truth is that when I started teaching, I really thought that every day would be like yesterday. I chose to be a teacher to build relationships with students. To make them bookaholics. To get to watch them grow. To be the teacher they come back and visit. Therefore, my first few years of teaching were a shock. I got moved from grade-level to grade-level, and each time I had to reinvent the wheel. My elementary kids acted like, well, kids. Things fell off my walls. I screamed at them. I cried to them.

I'd like to say that those types of things don't happen in my classroom now that I've been teaching for five years, but they still do. It's a messy business. Sometimes, my students and I hate each other. Sometimes I am so tired that it takes all of my effort to repress my sarcasm and find my patience. But every so often, a perfect day like yesterday comes. A day to remind myself that this is what it is all about. A day to revel in conversations with my kiddos instead of just wishing that they would leave me alone.

Now, I feel like I can appreciate those days all the more because of their rarity. That I am better equipped to take a step back and figure out how to re-create it. I'm just starting to get wistful enough again to hope that with more experience, I'll be able to create more of these days with my students. After the stress and agony of last year, I'm finally starting to feel like making a leap to a new school with older students was the right choice for me. It's been over a year, but I'm finally approaching the light at the end of the tunnel.

The photo above is courtesy of Hey Girl Teacher one of my favorite daily pick me ups.

***Also, I wrote this whole post yesterday and it got deleted when I went to publish it. Wordless Wednesday will get posted tonight- promise :)