Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring Getaway, Part Two

Part Two of my Spring Getaway post. If you missed Part One, check it out here and then come on back.

Saturday was our Carbondale Adventure day. The hotel might have been more of an adventure than anything else. Arguing cleaning staff, room confusion, and guests using the parking lot as a party space until four in the morning. Justin and I got terrible sleep because of the loud guests, but i maintain that the worst part about that Carbondale hotel was the fact there were two copies of the exact same painting hanging in our room on adjacent walls.  ANYWAY, Justin and I had lunch at a (fake) Lonestar Steak & Saloon because the Showme's that the Internet promised us was now an Applebee's. (We really wanted burgers brought to us by busty girls). We went to two college town shops that my cousin recommended to me: Tropicana Vintage Clothing and Plaza Records. At the thrift shop, I picked up a fuzzy red and black coat AND convinced the shopgirl to knock off five dollars and sales tax because we shared a cosmic, tingly connection to the coat, which we both separately named Lola (oh, and because I asked). At the record store, which was being run by two snotty college kids who were way too into Laurie Anderson for my tastes and who loathed Soundgaren, I picked up a vinyl copy of Neko Case's Blacklisted. Now I just need a functioning turntable...another day, another problem. 

Dinner with my cousin and her husband was OUTSTANDING. We went to the Newell House in Carbondale, which I will now be recommending to anyone I ever meet for the rest of my life. Great drink list, delicious appetizers and salads, tremendous entrees, and desserts that make you melt into your chair. Also? Four people ate like kings at a not-necessarily-cheap bistro without holding back for under $200. Impressive.  If you are ever in the Carbondale, IL area, GO TO THE NEWELL HOUSE.

The drive home. We were exhausted from being kept awake by partying youths outside our hotel and, despite not wanting the spring getaway to end, I think we both were anxious to get home to our beds. Justin was excessively silly on the drive home, which can be a blessing and, well...less than a blessing. I napped and ate way too many snacks..

We're back at home now, already dealing with the life stuff we left behind. Yeah, there were moments on our trip when we would look at each other and say, "I wish we could run away like this forever." It sounds great, running away from all your troubles and just living for yourself, and it is...for a little while. Eventually, though, it starts to feel strange and stale. Being back at home means going back to work, getting into disagreements, and personal pain, but this trip reminded Justin and I that no matter how messy our lives get, we have each other. We have each other to talk to, to lean on, to confide in, to laugh with. We have each other to love. I hope that we can take more trips like this, trips that serve as reminders that we enrich each other's lives and, more importantly, that we can handle whatever life throws at us. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Getaway, Part One

Hello, friends! I've been gone for a week, but this time it was for a happy reason, not stress or sadness. Justin and I took a romantic, love-y dove-y spring getaway to beautiful Southern Illinois (or So-Ill, as I like to call it). We'd been stressed out by school, work, friends, family, just life in general, so this trip was much needed. It was a wonderful extended weekend of laughter, silliness, and reconnecting with each other. This update is a bit rambly and unorganized, but you really didn't expect me to spend time on my trip documenting every detail, did you?

(This thing turned out be way too long, so I split it up into two posts. Part Two will be posted tomorrow!)

Justin and I hit the road on Wednesday morning, stopping at a Cracker Barrel along the way and I ate waaaay too much, leaving me with that awful my-tummy-is-going-to-rupture feeling for the rest of the drive. We were pleasantly surprised by our hotel in Marion, IL. Comfortable king-size bed, big desk, comfortable chairs, flat-screen TV, aaaaand a jetted bathtub. Awesome. Luckily for us, there was a 1920s-themed steakhouse right next door to the hotel. Our dinner plans for the evening were pretty much sealed when we spotted the old-timey cars on display in front of the restaurant.

True to form, the first full day we had in So-Ill was an abrupt change in weather from three days of 80 degree weather and 40 degree weather and grey skies. (We tried to shake the notion that we had brought the horrible Chicago weather with us.) But this was our spring getaway, so weather be damned! We had outdoor plans and we were going to do them on the ONE day in our entire trip that didn't have rain in the forecast. We drove down to the Shawnee National Forest and walked the observation trail at The Garden of the Gods. It was cloudy and a bit chilly, but it actually turned out to be an interesting day to see the park. I've always seen it in the summer, when the sun is shining and everything is green. Going on a grey day in early spring was very different. Less green, small buds, and some fantastic colored moss and weathering on the rocks. I was so pleased with the afternoon that I took a lot of pictures, that you can check out here. They are all scenic with a few cloesups of rock surfaces, if you're into that sort of thing. After our communion with nature, we met up with my So-Ill family at a pizza place in Marion.

Friday had a bit of a slow start. We woke up to rain, so I was crabby. Justin had been dealing with some indigestion/heartburn problems for several days, so that made him crabby. But we got through it and after a lunch with my grandmother, we had talked away the crabbiness and our love-y dove-y spring getaway was back on track. We nixed plans to go out to dinner so that we could both stay in & relax and so that Justin could give his digestive system a rest. We had food delivered to the hotel (and it.was.AMAZING) and watched TV in bed. Ended the night by dropping a vanilla-toffee bath bomb into the jetted tub. Hellooooo, relaxation!

Stay tuned for Part Two!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My week in bullet points: March 14-20, 2011

It's the first day of Spring! With the beginning of Spring comes the beginning of a transitional period in my life. I'm doing more with my time and feeling good about it. Here's some of what I did this week, just in case you missed it.
  • I learned from Facebook that a member of my graduating class passed away this week. Read my thoughts on the news here.
  • I got hit with another cold! I felt like complete garbage within two hours on Tuesday afternoon (the Ides of March, how suspicious) and was convinced that I would be suffering from the Whine-Flu 2.0, moaning about how horrible my cold was for days on end. Fortunately, it wasn't so bad, I felt functional by Friday morning.
  • Wednesday was a BEAUTIFUL spring day! So beautiful that I forgot about my cold, sat outside, and enjoyed the moment. If you haven't already, read my thoughts about the possibilities of spring here.
  • Having "Friday" stuck in your head on a Friday is pretty fucking horrible, you guys.
  • Had dinner with some of the extended fam this weekend. Seeing my baby cousins is always a delight. L is walking now and she looks like me when I was a baby. The little boys weren't interested in playing with me, but the little girls were my best pals, asking me to put their hair up and showing me their new favorite toys. The best, though? 9-year-old J announced that she likes my current boyfriend way more than my former boyfriend. The old boyfriend has been gone for nearly two years and Justin wasn't even there to provoke this declaration of preference. J just likes him so much and thinks he's so much fun that she wants him to hang out with our family all the time. Adorable.
To top it all off, I am now the proud owner of this wonderful plastic pig:

Looks pretty typical, right?



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Oh! how I forgot what it's like

Spring has sprung in Chicago, my friends. It's 53 degrees, there are buds on the trees, and all signs of a blizzard have been completely erased.

Every year, there is that pivotal first day of Spring weather that makes me feel different. I am reminded of my favorite spring. It is Spring 2006. I am a 19-year-old freshman at Elmhurst College, a small, liberal arts school nestled in the safety of Chicago suburbia. Elmhurst, IL is so beautiful in the spring, with its endless trees and beautiful flowers, all blossoming at the same time. That first year, the campus came alive again for me in the spring.

It is April. I am riding in a white truck with a senior. He is an actor, he is a popular frat boy, he has great taste in music and film, he is adorable...and he is driving me around, talking to me. Awkward, not yet grown into my face, and completely inexperienced ME. We are listening to Neko Case's "Star Witness" (which he has recently fallen in love with, causing my internal swooning to escalate to Bieber Fever levels). The sun's warmth casts a loving, protective glow over everything that passes out my open window. I am sipping delicious raspberry lemonade as the heavenly spring wind gently caresses my hair. I remove myself from the conversation and take a breath. This is life. This is adulthood. This is happiness.

Oh! how I forgot what it's like...

Neko's words cross my mind every spring. I get so caught up in the sadness of winter, the weight of it all, that I forget what comes next. I forget what it feels like to come out of the darkness and feel the warm embrace of spring's possibilities.

Spring's possibilities. I am filled with this idea every year. That first day when I remember that there are so many little things in life that are astoundingly great. Birds chirping. A quiet drive through your neighborhood. The condensation of a cold drink. Everything is magical and makes me feel young and alive. My brain races with thoughts, ideas, and plans. Nothing is out of my reach. At 19, the world was laid in front of me, waiting for me to overtake it with my brains, my wit, my pizazz, my energy. And every year, I am reminded that possibility isn't just for the 19-year-olds, for the college set. It is for all of us. The coming of spring gives each and every one of us that renewed sense of "watch out, world, here I come."

We have to embrace it and hold onto it. While I love that yearly reminder of what this moment feels like, I don't want it to be a feeling that fades and requires a reminder. I want to feel this feeling year-round, and I think I'm finally on the right path, the path that will give me springtime motivation year-round.

Oh! how I forgot what it's like.

Oh, how I forgot! And oh, how it feels to be ready.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Life is immensely too short

Last night, I learned (via the gossip mill that is a typical Facebook news feed) that a former classmate of mine passed away on Saturday. I went to elementary school, middle school, and high school with the individual and I can honestly say that he was one of the nicest guys I had ever meet (and my parents agree). By high school, he had the physical prowess of someone who could put anyone who crossed his path into some serious physical pain, but I don't think that really in his nature. My dad saw this person at Menard's, maybe a year ago, and he still greeted him with a hearty, "Hello, Mr. Armstrong!" as if he were still a nice 4th grader who lived in my neighborhood. Matt, you had a good heart and you will greatly missed.

Matt graduated in my class. He is my age...and his body failed him. I can't even imagine...I just...I don't know, guys, I don't what to say. I know what to say when someone takes a ton of drugs and commits suicide, I know what to say when the best friend you ever made in group therapy stops returning your calls before being found dead in her apartment, but...I don't know what to say when young people who led good, clean lives are taken down by their own bodies. It baffles me.

What I do have to say might sound like a downer, but clearly, life is too short. Life is too short to stress over the little things. Life is too short to stay angry with people. To short to second guess yourself, to short to pass on opportunities, too short to live without really living.

So to all the other twentysomethings out there (especially the younger half), if you were gone tomorrow, could you say that you had truly lived in your short life? I am already making strides to stop being frightened of new opportunities, of making less rules for myself. Yes, we should take care of our bodies, but we should also be certain that we are making the most of our lives, of cherishing every single moment that we have on this Earth.

And also, if you love someone, if you cherish someone's friendship, or if you just think someone is quirky character and you're glad to have them in your life, tell them. Whenever an opportunity presents itself, say something. You never know when it will your last opportunity.

Love, peace, and comfort to all who knew Matt. <3 <3

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My week in bullet points: March 7-13, 2011

Fairly uneventful week. Working on trying to change that. Here's my week in bullet points, just in case you missed it.
  • Made a major life decision that I'm not ready to talk about on the blog. I'm still processing my feelings and I can't shake the assumption that I need  to justify my decisions to other people. When the time comes, I'll fill y'all in, don't worry.
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a fantastic film that will, surprisingly, not bum you out. Watch it.
  • Justin and I have reached Season 3 of our grand Gilmore Girls journey. I have to say, this has been a special journey for the both of us. I've taken someone else on a Gilmore Girls journey before, but this has been great because Justin has his own opinions on the characters that I would have never considered before. Yes, we bicker a bit when I remind him that some of these characters are making their decisions because they're teenagers so we should cut them the teensiest bit of slack, but we also discuss characters' intentions and actions like intelligent adults. Sometimes, Justin will actually change opinions that I have held for five years because he sees the world differently and has different experiences than I do and can therefore make a compelling argument. (This is all great, but I am confident that Justin won't be so keen on Christopher come Season 5).
  • I'M QUARANTINED! Yesterday morning, I awoke to discover that my left tonsil was the size of Neptune and swallowing was too difficult and too painful. Upon an actual examination, said tonsil filled up half my throat and was super red and angry. After a few hours of telling myself the swelling would go down and taking 20 minutes to eat half a Jello cup, I had my dad drive me to an Immediate Care Center. My doctor had no time for stories about how that tonsil has always been just a little bigger, no appreciation for my nervous charms, none of it. He clearly set a goal of meeting with me, diagnosing me, and treating me in under 2 minutes. Dude shone a light down my throat, asked me if I was allergic to penicillin, and then left. No swab necessary. WORLD RECORD! So today, since I have been diagnosed with "presumed Strep," I am downing Gatorade like there's no tomorrow and avoiding people at all costs.
I realize that two of those bullet points are hella long and probably deserved their own posts, whatever, I'm in a transitional period.

How was everyone else's week?

Monday, March 7, 2011

My week WITHOUT bullet points: February 28-March 6, 2011

Once again, I'm a day late. I needed yesterday to veg out with a film festival of Showgirls, Sid & Nancy, and To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar. But I was thinking about my week in bullet points. The more I thought about it, however, I realized it would just be one bullet point as my week pretty much revolved around one event, an event that would define my week in a matter of two days. My week is worthy of a full-fledged post. So here's what happened to me last week, just in case you missed it.

It started out badly. Monday was emotionally draining on a level I had not experienced in a long time. Things were said by people in different areas of my life that were hurtful. The words themselves are not important to this story. What is important to know is how these words made me feel. At the end of the first row, I felt shunned, unlikeable, and stripped of my power. By the end of the second, I felt as if there was nothing I could do to please anyone. I was ready to give up.

On Tuesday morning, I woke up with a new outlook. It occurred to me that I was stronger than I had been made to feel the day before. I felt powerful and ambitious. My vision was clear. Rather than getting down on myself because of things other people had to say, I said, "Fuck 'em." I didn't have the time to worry about petty arguments because I had the IIFA State Forensics tournament to work towards. It had been a fabulous tournament the year before (taking all three of my events to finals, connecting with my team), and I was determined to make this year even better.

With a packed coaching schedule and Lady Gaga on repeat in my car, I had a goal: Ignore the haters and break at least two events to finals. I spent the week focused on staying strong and finding the vulnerability necessary to make my events as amazing as they could be. I felt more prepared than I ever have before a tournament.

I performed my ass off at the tournament on Friday and Saturday. I strutted around Northern Illinois University with purpose and confidence. I never questioned myself or compared myself to other competitors. I laid everything out for the world to see and it felt good.

Turns out that all the hard work I put in paid off: not only did I break all four of my events to finals, but I finished in the top three of each event. It was an incredible feeling and a tremendous personal accomplishment. I visualized my ideal outcome and I made it happen. Pretty friggin' cool, right?

So from now on, I'm not going to let other people stand in the way of not only what I want from life, but what   I need from life. I need to look out for myself, to do what's best for me. I need to remind myself daily to truly own my life and my decisions. I will not be taken down by those who are threatened by my strength and I will not compromise my needs because I want to please everyone.

This week served as the ultimate proof that I have the power to make things happen for me. I have the strength to get what I need from life. I feel like I really do have the strength and the capability to make big, scary changes in my life, changes that will bring me relief, happiness, and fulfillment.