Thursday, July 30, 2015

What I'll Miss About The Naw (And What I Won't)

After three years and 11 months, it's time to say goodbye to the Naw. My roommates and I are all going our separate ways this summer, to new cities, new jobs, and new apartments. I'm sad to leave the place I've called home for several reasons, and I sincerely hope that whoever lives here in the years to come truly appreciates what a gem The Naw is. And yet, there are also a few things that I'm okay with leaving behind as I create a new home with Jesus a little further north on the Blue Line.

I Will Miss:
  1. Three words: In. Unit. Laundry.
  2. A bathtub so big I could have naval battles in it (or just really awesome baths).
  3. All the dark wood trim.
  4. The Hutch.
  5. Living so close to the 606.
  6. Having a big kitchen to cook in...
  7. And a big dining room to entertain in.
I Will Not Miss:
  1. The way the whole apartment is slightly off-level, so that a ball placed on the north side of a room rolls to the opposite wall with no initial nudge whatsoever.
  2. A bathtub that someone deemed necessary to coat in lead-based paint, so that I've had to bathe at my own risk.
  3. Not having my own closet/having to use the hall closet.
  4. That one outlet by the porch that doesn't work.
  5. Sleeping within listening distance of my neighbor's dining room.
  6. When the ceiling leaks during heavy storms.
  7. Knowing when my neighbor is on his porch smoking, thanks to southerly winds and open windows.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The 8 Stages of Packing

Between work (summer school and community service projects!) and moving prep (packing, cleaning, anxiously awaiting our keys!), I don't have a lot of brain space for much else. Over the past month, or at least during the small amount of time I was actually home, it's been a whole lot of this train of thought:
  1. I don't have that much stuff.
  2. OMG I have so much stuff.
  3. Will I need this winter coat/extra bar of soap/thesaurus in the next month?
  4. Where did all this stuff come from?
  5. I need more bubble wrap.
  6. Maybe I should just sell all my possessions.
  7. Except this shirt. I forgot about this shirt!
  8. I hope I remember where I packed my underwear.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls

Let's Explore Diabetes with OwlsLet's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): If you've read David Sedaris, you know the drill: short stories on topics ranging from body issues to relationships to childhood trauma.

First thoughts: My first first thought (every time I went to read) was "Did someone spray cologne on this book?" It seriously smelled like walking into a Hollister. My other first thought was that the stories were hit and miss. I know I'm comparing LEDWO to Sedaris's other books, but this one was a little disappointing.

Favorite quotes:
"Their house had read hard cover books in it, and you often saw them lying open on the sofa, the words still warm from being read." -p60, "Loggerheads"

"It's not lost on me that I'm so busy recording life, I don't have time to really live it....Even if what I'm recording is of no consequence, I've got to put it down on paper." -p233, "Day In, Day Out"

Final thoughts: Though there were a few stand out stories and lines that made me chuckle, overall I felt meh.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Most Likely to Succeed

Very quickly: if you get the chance, watch Most Likely to Succeed. It's a documentary about the way education works (or doesn't work) in this country, along with an inside look at a new way to think about how we teach our kids. Basically, do we want them to go far in life, or do we want them to get good grades? And furthermore, is there a way to get both?

We watched this film tonight as a large group (myself and the rest of my fellow first year Teaching Fellows) and naturally, had lots to discuss afterwards. I personally loved the feeling of my heart and calling intersecting with the work that I'm doing. It's been a while since I've had that and I truly appreciate it.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

East Coast, Here I (We) Come

[Vacation, Briefly: Our time in Lake Geneva was restful, relaxed, leisurely, food-filled, and recharging. Happy Birthdays were said/sung, pools were lounged at, and multiple board and card games were played. I enjoyed the quiet of little to no phone service and can't wait to make these mini-retreats a tradition!]

I was back in the city for a few hours, but now I'm off again, headed east for Citizen Schools's Summer Institute. I hope to learn a lot, meet some more coworkers/future friends, and prepare myself for a successful school year. Once again, I'm not sure what internet or free time will look like, so posting isn't guaranteed.

I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts eventually, but bear with me and my hectic schedule during these next few weeks!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

This Book Is Overdue!

This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us AllThis Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): I think the subtitle says a lot: "How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All," but this was also very broad look at all the services a library provides and the ways they've been challenged in the Age of Technology.

First Thoughts: This was less a riveting read about the future of libraries than an interesting reference book and history of library technology and advancements. I found certain chapters more entertaining than others, and I'm sure librarians themselves would also have favorite sections. The non-librarian/non-bibliophile would probably pass on this book.

Future Plans: I may or may not have decided to read this book based on my childhood dream of becoming a librarian. Recently I've thought about the possibility once again, and this book made the job seem more real.

Favorite Quote: "Good librarians are natural intelligence operatives. They possess all of the skills and characteristics required for that work: curiosity, wide-ranging knowledge, good memories, organizational and analytical aptitude, and discretion." -p6 (It's my favorite quote because, helloooo, that describes me.)

Final Thoughts: Some sections got a little too technical even for this bibliophile. While I was marginally interested in the topics of every chapter, I wasn't as interested as the depth of each chapter warranted. I still love libraries/librarians!

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Citizen Schools set aside the rest of this week for Teaching Fellow Relocation - getting settled in to new apartments or a new city, finding an apartment, or just enjoying a few days before Summer Institute in Boston. Since I spent last week apartment hunting (and lease signing), I'm taking these days to relocate a few hours north, in Lake Geneva.

Internet and cell service aren't guaranteed (or heartily welcomed) on vacation, so this space will stay quiet. You can find me on Instagram, though, where I'll post whenever I do have service!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Day Two: A Little of This, A Little of That

And just like that, I'm done with my first week of work! We had a short week to start off with since next week we'll be in Boston for Summer Institute. This leaves us a few days to finish relocation (for out-of-towners) and wrap up summer break (for me!).

Today we got more specifics regarding schedules, policies, and procedures. Then we gathered at Sip and Savor in Bronzeville for our induction ceremony. As an AmeriCorps alum, I was very excited to re-take the pledge.

Now on to Getting Things Done for America!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Day One: In the Books/On the Streets

A short check in after Day One on the job:

I've had several "first days" in my employment history, and the routine is similar no matter the field. There's excitement, paperwork, and lots of names to remember. Sometimes (like today) you get fed, sometimes (not today) you wonder what exactly you've gotten yourself into.

Today I met most of the people I'll be working with this year. While I'm not a veteran of the program, I am one of the older Teaching Fellows who has also lived in Chicago long enough to know my way around, which helped during the photo scavenger hunt we did as a group bonding activity. It'll take me a bit to keep names straight with backgrounds and hometowns and all the other random information you learn from a coworker when you first meet, but I think this is the start of some beautiful work friendships...which is a huge reason I started job searching to begin with.

Of course, work is about more than friends, but there will be time for all that in the coming weeks. For now, I'm enjoying orientation. Tomorrow brings more on-boarding paperwork plus our official AmeriCorps induction ceremony, where I'll take the AmeriCorps pledge to "get things done" once again.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Zen in the Art of Writing

Zen in the Art of WritingZen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): Ray Bradbury shares his writing advice sprinkled in with a history of his writing/publishing endeavors.

First thoughts: Not the most enlightening writing book I've read by a respected author (that honor probably goes to Stephen King), but I got a few useful tidbits out of it. I wish Bradbury's intro lasted longer and he spent less time heralding the creation of his many stories. Maybe if I was strictly a Bradbury fan I would care, but I checked Zen out for the writing part, not the stories behind the stories part.

Differences: Lots of comparisons have been made between Zen and King's On Writing. My take: King is self-effacing. Bradbury is self-congratulatory.

Favorite quotes (there are actually quite a few, once you get past the schmaltz):
"and what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right." -pxii

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." -pxiii

"The first thing a writer should be is - excited." -p4

"What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?" -p5

"Do not...turn away from what you are - the material within you which makes you individual, and therefore indispensable to others." p42

"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled.
The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out." -p120

Final thoughts: Again, I would've liked more of the preface and less of the self-involved essays. While a few behind-the-scenes anecdotes were interesting, I'm not sure if this book was the place for them.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday Night Links 23

My break week is over; I have one weekend left before I officially join the ranks as a Teaching Fellow for Citizen Schools. What am I mulling over these days? Things like this:

First, I'm glad I got to leave my job intentionally and take my time to say my goodbyes properly. I'm also grateful I worked in this break week. (I needed the time to clean and pack!)

Much like Elizabeth Gilbert, Laura Simms thinks Passion-Driven Careers aren't necessarily the goal. I'm glad I found a Purpose-Driven position.

I loved not hearing about "following your heart" - that sappy sentiment only leads to frustration as far as I've learned. It's working your ass off that pays the bills.

Speaking of paying the bills: "Do the best you can with what you have."

And another topical post from Austin Kleon, on learning in the open.

I'm so very excited to start this new chapter - once again, thanks to everyone who has cheered me on and joined me in all my adventures! The fun continues on Monday with the start of #teachingfellowlife (hashtag is a work in progress).

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Struggles of Apartment Searching

When the (maybe, almost) dream apartment you find suddenly can't be found online, or the landlord refuses to answer or return your calls.

Emailing a landlord about possible viewings and getting a form reply about pet policies and procedures.

When all the apartments are either available RIGHT NOW or not for another two months.

Every landlord/realtor screening your calls and/or playing phone tag with realtors.

When your boyfriend doesn't have bad credit, just zero credit.

Suddenly having a ton of new phone numbers in your phone. No names, just addresses to go along with them.

Loving the apartment...hating the neighborhood.

Loving the apartment...hating the price.

Loving the apartment...hating the three flights of narrow stairs it takes to get there.

Loving the realtor...hating the apartment.

Finding a great apartment in a great neighborhood, submitting an application, then having a nervous breakdown every half hour until the realty agency calls back.

Getting approved for the apartment, then having to wait a full day before signing paperwork so you can do it with your future forever roommate.

[And then you sign the lease and all the struggles seem minor.]

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What I Know About...Not Spending All My Money on Clothes

I started packing this week, which was either the best or worst decision I could have made. The best because after this week, I'll only really be around for the last week of July and that doesn't give me much time to corral all my possessions. The worst because, well, packing. I've found that my formula for packing is to first get rid of as much as possible. Even more specifically, to get rid of as much clothing as possible.

I don't know how I ended up with so many articles of clothing - I don't shop all that often, really, but even more concerning is how often I think I have "nothing" to wear. I have plenty! The problem is I've been guilty of impulse buys, thinking I have a different body size that I do, and blindly following unfortunate fads. This past year I took a hard look at my clothes shopping habits and I've come up with a few tricks to keep my closet uncluttered and my bank account stable.

I know...
  1. Thrift stores and clearance racks are my friends, but sometimes my closet is friend enough. I love a new shirt as much as the next person, and I love it even more if I think I got it for a bargain, but if I already have three similar shirts at home, what am I really accomplishing? The best way I've learned to save money is to shop my closet and create new outfits from what I already have.
  2. If I really don't have a certain item, I shop only for that item. I have legitimately gone to the store for "one black shirt" or "chambray button up" - because that specific item is what I had my heart set on. Other items that only slightly fit the bill get left behind. Oh, and I try thrift stores for the items before heading to other retailers. Because...
  3. One lady's trash is this lady's spring wardrobe. Besides not buying clothes or only buying very specific articles, shopping second hand keeps costs down. It's not rocket science. To save some money, I'm prepared to spend some time at thrift stores to find what I'm looking for (in my size and in good quality as well).
  4. A capsule-esque wardrobe helps keep out unnecessary items (saving $$) while also making getting dressed a breeze! Capsule wardrobes are all the rage on the internet, and for good reason. There's no hard and fast rule for them. Mine is that I can only add if I also get rid of things, and I try to only add seasonally (deciding I want a certain item for summer, say). I'm also working on transitioning my wardrobe from "casual house manager" to "business casual quasi-teacher," so that's added more challenges (like, I know I need dress pants, but that doesn't mean my jeans have to go, right?).
  5. Sometimes you gotta spend a little to save a lot. If I'm throwing down some cash on a winter coat or a cocktail dress (things that I want to last for several years or more), I do my homework. I don't want to cut corners and buy whatever is cheapest, because that item probably won't last as long, and I'll just have to buy another, wasting whatever money I initially saved. I can still research prices/stores, keep an eye out for sales, and buy something that isn't full-price, but I feel okay paying a good price for a quality item knowing I saved money in the long run.
The bottom line on clothes is that they're a learning curve. Now that I'm learning what my style is (lots of neutrals, a few stripes, minimal accessories), I can stick with clothes that fit me and leave all the other stuff that, while cute or fun or cheap, I ultimately never wear. I save moola and I look good doing it. Win-win.

Monday, July 6, 2015

52nd Time's the Charm...

After 52 (more or less) applications/cover letters/times I tried to convince someone I was normal/hireable/awesome as a human and 11 actual interviews, ranging from brief phone conversations to pleasant in-person chats to discussion-based group interviews, I can finally (exhaustingly, happily, proudly) announce...I have a new job!

I'm sure if you've been reading recently you guessed this already, but I wanted to make sure I finished out my time as a nanny/house manager before I started talking about what's new in my life. Now that I'm on my summer break, the fact that I'm starting a new position next week feels more real.

The Who:
I was hired in late May by Citizen Schools to be a part of their National Teaching Fellowship Class of 2017. It's a two year program through AmeriCorps (which I was also a part of during MercyWorks) and my official title is Teaching Fellow. I'll also have a campus-specific role (TBA) and I'm sure a hashtag will follow.

The What:
For now, my job description is "Teach, Serve, Grow." I'll be working with middle school students both in the classroom and after school, but beyond that I haven't really imagined what a day will look like - I'd rather go in with open expectations and learn from there. I will say that the opportunity to work in the Education field after several years on the Residential side of things really excites me. I think we all know that I loved/love school.

The Where:
In late June, I found out that my school placement is in Logan Square, which means I'm already pretty familiar with the neighborhood (yay!).

The Why:
I've written about why a job change in general was needed and wanted. My ideal job (the hopes I had for my future from the beginning of my job search) involved a nonprofit, being able to help/serve others, having coworkers, and using my creative talents. Citizen Schools fits that bill and then some. I actually found the position after being turned down for a different job within their network. My initial contact suggested the Teaching Fellowship and introduced me to an area recruiter. After a challenging interview process, I was happy that what was at first another rejection turned into a new life direction. (And it made what I read in Rejection Proof ring all the more true.)

The When:
I start next Monday! I'm sure my first few weeks (of training) will leave me with lots to talk about, and then once school starts I'll have even more to say. New things bring lots of excitement around here. Thanks for being a part of it.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Rejection Proof

Rejection Proof: 100 Days of Rejection, or How to Ask Anything of Anyone at AnytimeRejection Proof: 100 Days of Rejection, or How to Ask Anything of Anyone at Anytime by Jia Jiang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sum it up in a sentence (or two): Jia Jiang puts himself on a quest to be rejected 100 times in order to overcome his fear of it and learn how to "ask anything of anyone at anytime." He shares his insights in this informative and entertaining book.

First thoughts: I was so excited to read Rejection Proof, and it didn't disappoint. I wonder if I would have felt the same way if I had read it during my job search, or if reading it then would have kept my spirits up (or just made me even more frustrated), but either way, it was relatable. Jiang's fears of quitting his job and the first big rejection he experiences after what felt like a lifetime of "yes" reminded me of my own struggles with deciding to quit my job and look for something new, only to have to wait nearly a year for that something new to come around.

What is Rejection, Really?: Rejection is personal. Failure, on the other hand, is more objective. Rejection is human (good to remember), rejection is an opinion (and usually says more about the person doing the rejecting), and rejection is numbered (for me, it was about 50).

Favorite quotes:
"The problem with insecurity is that you start feeling like everyone might reject you, even your closest loved ones." -p21

"Our mainstream views on how to handle rejection are breathtakingly simplistic....Don't take it personally! Dust yourself off and move on!" -p 58-59

"In the end, what we really need is not acceptance from others, but acceptance from ourselves. In fact, being comfortable with who we are should be a prerequisite - not the result - of seeking others' approval. We should all have the knowledge that who we are is good enough to get a yes from ourselves." -p198

Things I Would Change: When Jiang uses past tense in his writing...that bummed me out. I really wish an editor would've caught that.

Recommended for: job seekers, artists/writers (who face rejection all the time), recent college grads, self-improvement junkies.

Editor's Note: I received a copy of Rejection Proof from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Friday, July 3, 2015

Friday Night Links 22

It's really happening. I finished #nannylife yesterday, then I start a new adventure (hashtag still in process) in a week. Altogether, it's been almost a year of off-and-on job searching, opportunity seeking, life's path questioning, and realizing no one has anything figured out. I learned a lot about myself, the job market in Chicago, the range of feelings I go through during an interview, rejection, and trusting the process. Mostly I learned through experience, but a few blog posts/videos also helped a lot. And I have to thank (again, always) my parents for being great resources and cheerleaders. Aaaaand if we're being honest, Elizabeth Gilbert deserves credit for all the motivation she's provided (see link 1 & 3, below).

I can't remember where I first found Gilbert's explanation of passion vs curiosity (and I know I've shared it here before), but I've gone back to it several times in the past year, reminding myself that right now, I'm following my curiosity. Someday, I might find my passion (or I might look back after 100 years and retrospectively realize what it was all along), but my gorgeous curiosity is enough for me now, thanks.

Actually, I'm gonna embed the video right here so there's no excuse not to watch (from the beginning until about 1:32):

Another way to frame "following curiosity" is plain old forward motion, which I needed this past year (and will continue to need) to not fall over/get stuck. Also, "Perfect is the enemy of the good." A million times, yes. Was my resume/cover letter ever perfect and "ready" to send out? Probably not. But an unsent resume would've gotten me zero interviews.

"Just Ask" was my mantra this spring, when I realized I couldn't get something I wanted without verbalizing my request. The universe is many things, but a mind-reader isn't one of them.

And finally, when I asked Culture Question #1 during a phone interview, the response I got was "Wow. That's good. I've never heard that one before." Needless to say, that felt cool. (I didn't get that job, but I got a great reference!)

Wherever you are in life (job searching, job loving, stuck in a job, retired) I hope these references resonate. I'll be back next week with a more concrete update on my new adventure, Happy Fourth!

Thursday, July 2, 2015


I didn't write poems for May or June (in my defense a LOT was going on elsewhere in my life/brain), but I'm back on the wagon for July. Today my poem celebrates and honors the end of a chapter in my life. My 2015 poems so far have all related to my job, so it seems fitting for July's too.


It's the little things, like leaving behind a set of keys that was all but attached to you.
Or having the weight of several hundred loads of laundry lifted from your shoulders.
I'm free, you think. Free to enjoy the rain without worrying about someone else's plants,
free to leave town without wondering if you forgot to lock someone else's doors.

For a little while at least, you're untethered. Anything and nothing could happen,
but your response no longer has to be how to solve the problem that really isn't yours.
You can let go of all the trivial information you stored for rainy days and emergencies.
You can coast away on your bike without second guessing your housekeeping skills.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Inside Out

The best way to describe Pixar's newest venture, Inside Out, is to picture what would happen if "feelings had feelings." Most of the movie takes place inside the head of 11-year old Riley, an imaginative and overall "happy" girl from Minnesota. Things up in Riley's head get a little wild after her family moves to San Francisco. Joy, the narrator, has her hands full between keeping Fear, Disgust, Anger, and Sadness in line and helping to keep Riley herself in good spirits when nothing seems to be going right. When Sadness takes things (memories) literally into her own hands, Joy goes on a mission to rescue Riley from herself.

The way Pixar imagines the inner-workings of our brains is fun and easy to understand without being dumbed-down or childish. I loved the idea of "Personality Islands," "Core Memories," and they way they visualized all the details of memory processing. The scenes in Long Term Memory were a hoot, especially the gum commercial gag and the romp through Imagination Land.

Beyond being great way to think about how we feel, Inside Out is an appeal to the importance of our feelings (having them, expressing them, honoring them). The story, while simple, allows the five Feelings to shine: their purpose, when boiled down, is to keep us alive, and they're great at it. When things get out of balance - say Fear or Anger runs the control board - that's when we run into real world troubles. We hide our problems instead of seeking out ways to solve them, or we explode and push others away. Even when Joy runs the show for too long, things go blah. We need Disgust, to keep us from being poisoned. We need Fear to keep us out of danger. We need Anger to motivate us. We need Joy to lift us up. We need Sadness to grow, to get through changes, and to properly grieve the things we lose (even if those things are intangibles, like a friendship, a hockey team, or a feeling of home). This myriad of emotions makes us human.

At the climax of the film, sniffling noises echoed around the theater where Jesus and I watched. "Like a thousand people are crying," Jesus whispered to me. I picked my head up from his shoulder, where I had leaned over when my own tears started to spill. "Never mind, a thousand and one." If the rest of those theatergoers and I learned anything during those few hours, it's that Sadness demands to be felt, and that's not a bad thing.