December 30, 2007

Away in a Manger

The Christmas decorations are down. I saved Oscar the trouble and took them down now so he wouldn't allow himself to get into any more trouble. (He did knock the tree down again two days ago.) And surprisingly, everything is present and accounted for... with the exception of my baby Jesus in a manger ornament.

I've looked everywhere around the tree, under my couch, under my chair, in corners and even in Oscar's litter box. I can't find him. I tried interrogating Oscar, but it didn't seem to phase him. So I ask you, what would Jesus do?

December 26, 2007

Oh, Unholy Night

I had a thought on my 10-hour train trip from Chicago to Dearborn, Michigan: I probably should have taken down my little Christmas tree before leaving. A trifecta of train problems doubled my trip time home, so I had a lot of time to think. I left Chicago to spend the holidays with my family. I was, however, leaving one family member from Friday to Wednesday - my mischievous cat Oscar.

Oscar had plenty of time to think, as well. With six mostly-unsupervised days in my apartment (I did have friends check on him), Oscar took his time thinking about how he could dismantle my Christmas tree. And then he did.

When I left home Friday, my tree looked like this:

When I came home today, my tree looked like this:

Notice the tree skirt is now on top of the tree. Notice the lack of ornaments. Notice the carnage.
No, notice the carnage:

My porcelain snowman is weeping inside:

And who's the culprit? None other than my little beast.

I'm not even certain I'll be able to find all my ornaments. They were strewn across my apartment. I could see him dragging some under my bed to his little hidden lair, so I'm counting on finding some in Oscar's litter box in a few days. Some could be under my couch. Some could be half way to Michigan. I really don't know. What I do know is that Oscar gets mad when I leave him. And I learned I need to do my best to curb the number of things he can destroy in my absence. Because something tells me he'd do it all again if he had the chance.

December 16, 2007

Hauntingly Beautiful

Every day in my work inbox I receive an email from Daily Candy. The emails vary in their content and length, but generally they contain a summary of goings-on in the Chicagoland area. On Friday morning, I received an email with a link to Carey Primeau's portfolio. The title of the Daily Candy email was Neglected Beauty, and if you view his portfolio you can see that is what he photographs.

He travels to dilapidated structures - landmarks in their day - and photographs them. His work is beautiful even though the places he photographs are not. I found his photos especially interesting because two sections of the portfolio are dedicated to Detroit (near where I grew up) and Chicago (where I live now) structures.

It has always angered me to see buildings that have a history left to their own ruin. I find his work beautiful and sad and compelling and inspiring all at the same time. His work inspired me so much that I felt the need to write him - not something I do often. I wanted him to know that I consider his photos to be both artistic and noble. I described it to him as hauntingly beautiful. And being the compassionate artist he is, he wrote me back:

"Thank you very much for the compliments. I'm glad that so many find these connections to the buildings. Hauntingly Beautiful is a perfect phrase to describe the photos. Here's hope that one day these landmarks will be saved for future generations and that one day they can tell narratives about us and our time here on earth."

I share his hope.

December 11, 2007

Where's The Beef?

Outside my door when I came home from work today was a giant Styrofoam box. However, I already knew what was inside it: meat. I should explain.

My office Christmas party was last week. I did not attend. I did, however, receive a text message from a coworker mid-party informing me I won meat. Yes, meat. My firm raffles off a lot of prizes at the annual Christmas party: $200 gift certificates, overnight stays in five star hotels downtown, airlines tickets.... and meat. And I won the meat. In a twist of irony, I did not attend the Christmas party because my stomach was in knots, so the thought of pounds of meat heading my way did not help my cause.

I opened the giant Styrofoam box and began surveying my winnings (with Oscar watching closely nearby). When all was said and done, I received:
- two top sirloin steaks
- two beef tenderloin steaks
- four ground beef burgers
- four boneless chicken breasts
- six stuffed baked potatoes
- one chocolate cake

It needs to be said that I am not a vegetarian, but I eat like one. I will have the occasional meat dish, but usually only if it's prepared for me, not by me. My dinners consist mainly of rices, beans, vegetables, cheeses or sometimes just a bag of popcorn. I can spend $100 easily at the grocery store on snack foods I turns into "dinners." To have all this meat in my house now is a bit overwhelming. So overwhelming that instead of busting into one of my many meat options tonight for dinner, I made nachos with cheese, onions, spinach and salsa. (No meat.) Maybe I'll make something tomorrow, but until then, my meat will continue to take up about two-thirds of my freezer's space.

December 10, 2007

A Whole Latte Money

My office distributes paychecks on the first and 15th of every month. Needless to say checking my bank account balance online around that time is as exciting as it gets. This Friday, though, I have reason to be extra excited. December 15th is not just any payday, it’s the payday when I will receive my annual bonus.

When I was hired at the firm in the summer of 2006, my recruiter informed me that the firm’s salaries are not top of the pay scale, but it tends to make up the difference come bonus time. Last year, I had only worked for the firm about six months when bonus day rolled around. I did not expect much. What I received was a little less than five grand (before taxes). Needless to say, I was floored. I have not heard anything about the firm being stingy this year, so I’m planning to receive a sizable chunk of change in about four days.

Money has concerned me for as long as I can remember. I moved to Chicago on a journalist’s salary and less than three months in found myself with mounting debt and a job that would never allow me to make ends meet. Last year, when I finally began making what I consider to be a livable wage, I vowed that I would not allow my influx of cash to be spent on venti lattes and bags of shoes. This is not to say I didn’t buy the occasional latte or pricy shoe, because I did. But I also did get very serious about getting my finances under control. I paid off my credit card, put a decent chunk of money in savings and started contributing 10 percent of my paycheck to a 401K. I am in better financial shape right now than I have ever been, and to me that’s worth more than all the venti lattes in Chicago.

As I said, I was surprised by first bonus. I could have justified splurging on a few needless, pricy items for myself since most of my bonus was money I had not banked on. Instead, I started my fiscal year right. Half of my bonus went to my credit card balance and the other half I used to open a high-interest savings account.

Since I have an idea of what I can expect to receive this year, I’m planning. And as a pat on the back to myself, I’m happy to say about half of my 2007 bonus will be spent on a spring trip to Morocco. A smaller portion will be used to pay off the few odds and ends on my credit card and an even smaller portion will be going toward my savings to round it up to nice even number. After Christmas presents and repairing my violin, I’m planning to still have a couple hundred extra for whatever. I already have a feeling a portion of that whatever is left (ok, most of it) may be spent on shoes… and at least one venti latte.

November 30, 2007

Hasta Luego

It is going to be 34 degrees with a wintry mix of sleet and snow in Chicago tomorrow. I know this but I won't get to experience it. I'm high-tailing it out of here to warmer, sunnier destinations. The snow will be setting in some time mid afternoon. By then I plan to be in a tank top and sipping a fruity beverage. And after waiting 45 minutes outdoors in the Windy City today for public transit, I can't get there a moment too soon.

See you next week!

November 26, 2007

Up Chuck Wake Up

Last night, I learned a very unpleasant way to be woken up. At 4:30 a.m., I was wrestled from slumber by the sound cat gagging near my head. I opened my eyes and looked up. There sat Oscar hunched over on the pillow he claims most nights due north of my head working up something fierce. No sooner was I awake than Oscar horked a few inches from the spot I’d been sleeping mere seconds ago. I mean really, he couldn’t have chosen the wood floors which cover approximately 95 percent of my apartment?

With Oscar out of he way, I grabbed the pillow and removed the case gently, careful not to further spread the kitty puke. I then rinsed it in my bathroom sink, thinking there was nothing much else I could do at the moment. Leaving the pillow case to dry over my tub, I returned to bed. On the way back, I crossed paths with Oscar who was meowing and raring to play. What apparently was a disruption to me was only a minor inconvenience for my cat. Regardless, we both ended up falling back asleep - Oscar on a different pillow.

November 18, 2007

Calling All Cell Phones

I have been cell phone shopping lately. I am officially out of my Verizon contract and can quit it any time I want to. (I kind of sound like an addict.) Since I don’t hate my current phone or service (minus their poor customer service), I haven’t rushed out to get the newest, latest and greatest model. I have instead been browsing. Browsing though has lead me to one conclusion: there are too many options.

I visited an AT&T (formerly Cingular) store. I browsed to a Sprint (joined with Nextel) store. I shopped at T-Mobile. Not to mention, I have read countless reviews on Doing all this has been helpful, but there is too much. And I do not necessarily mean too much in terms of a providers or models, I mean there is simply too much that comes with a cell phone these days. Apparently, we as a people have evolved far beyond nine digits and a send button.

All the latest and coolest and newest phones are too advanced for me (or I’m too remedial for them). I do not need the ability to check my email on my cell phone. Frankly, I’m just not that important. And I certainly don’t want work to have the ability to reach me while I’m in the comfort of my own home - unless someone thinks it important enough to call me. I don’t want to watch TV on a mini-cell phone screen. I don’t have cable at home, so why would I feel it necessary to watch it on my phone? I don’t care to get the latest sports and news sent to me as they happen. I’m not going to download music and listen to it on my phone. I have an iPod, which I considered to a big techie purchase for me. Guess I’m not nearly as visionary as the people at Apple. Turn by turn navigations and GPS locators seem great, but these features just seem a little too Big Brother. There’s just so much. Case and point: In Japan, your cell phone can confirm if you need to pop a breath mint.

I do think these services are great, but I know I don’t ultimately need them. They seem like more ways to tune out the world. And being a girl that’s on public transit often enough, sometimes it is necessary to block out the world in my immediate surroundings. Call me old fashion, but I’d rather do that with a book than by responding to work emails. I remember when I got my current phone, the salesman talked up Verizon’s Vcast service. He showed me how clear the sound quality was and how crisp music videos looked on the screen of my new phone. You know how many times I’ve used that feature? None. You know how many times I’ve used the tip calculator? More than I can count. See, I’m a simple girl.

There are basic phones on the market, made for people like me, but they are few and far between. And those I have been able to find, the reviews are not so great. It’s as if all the phone companies have given the fresh out of school engineers and designers these phones while all the top notch guys are creating phones that will someday tele-transport people and raise their children. Again, these are just services I don’t see myself needing.

I’ll continue my search and probably make a purchase before the end of the year. Lord knows though, what ever I do buy will already be considered outdated by the time I get it home. But as long as the tip calculator works, it will be technologically advanced enough for me.

Time's A Wastin'

I took this past Friday off work. I called in sick because I thought I might be getting sick (and I have a few sick days to use before New Years rolls around). Turns out I was just a little more tired than usual. I had a self-made, three-day weekend, and yet tonight I repeatedly had to convince myself that it was in fact Sunday night. I had an extra day tacked onto my weekend, but it passed by as quickly as any other. I’ve also reminded myself several times tonight that this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving. How can it be Thanksgiving? Didn’t November just start? I know the sun is now setting in Chicago at 4:30 p.m., but it can’t be this late in the year already -although, any storefront these days would have me believe it is Dec. 24. Well the good news is this week will be another short week followed by another long weekend. I’m hoping though the coming weekend might feel a little more extended than this one, otherwise before I know it, it will be New Years and I won't have used any of my remaining sick days.

November 11, 2007

Here Come the Dishes Again

Whenever I hear a song by the Eurythmics (which granted is not all that often) one very vivid always pops into my head: my dad doing the dishes. Growing up in my household we never had a dishwasher. It wasn’t until a few years ago, with both their daughters out of the house - me a few states away and my sister with her own family and home - that my parents decided to remodel their kitchen. With this remodel came a dishwasher.

My childhood, as I said though, was dishwasher-less. We took turns doing the dishes. I am almost certain that number of times my dad, my sister or I did the dishes doesn’t equal the number of times my mom stood at the kitchen sink scrubbing. For me doing the dishes was boring and always left me with chaffed hands, however for my dad it was a different activity all together. I almost always knew when my dad was doing dishes. If household conditions permitted, I’d see my dad walk over to our record player with the Eurythmics greatest hits album in hand., and then Annie Lennox would start singing about the rain coming again. There stood my dad, in the kitchen, gloves on, plates, bowls and silverware in hand, tapping his feet and signing along to the Eurythmics. There were times he did the dishes in a less flamboyant manner, but it’s the times he blasted the Eurythmics that I remember.

I now have no dishwasher to call my own. My apartment, as hard as I tried to find one, did not come with a dishwasher. So I do them the old fashioned way, with a scrub brush, some liquid soap and my hands. Yesterday after running some errands, I walked into my kitchen to do my dishes. It’s not a task I look forward to, so yesterday I spiced it up. Along with my scrub brush and liquid soap, I grabbed my iPod. I set it on shuffle and sang along and tapped my feet while scrubbing away. And then I realized, I am my father’s daughter.

October 31, 2007

Grossly Informative

I don’t consider myself a germ-a-phobe. I don’t feel the need to wash my hands 1,000 times a day. I don’t freak out if I don’t have hand sanitizer on me at all times. I don't go AWOL on people who sneeze within 5 feet of me. I also rarely ever get sick, so I just generally don’t freak out about germs – at least I didn’t.

There is this article in my new Health Magazine . I read it last week and have not stopped thinking about germs since. Let’s just say I learned a lot I may not have actually wanted to know. It was aptly titled “The 12 Germiest Places in America” and should you choose to read this article, you too might start thinking differently about grocery shopping. “Saliva. Bacteria. Fecal matter. Those are just a few of the choice substances Gerba found on shopping cart handles. Carts rank high on the yuck scale because they’re handled by dozens of people every day and you’re 'putting your broccoli where some kid’s butt was,' says the professor of environmental microbiology."


October 22, 2007

Someone Told Me!

There is a fabulous, intelligent and witty program on NPR I have only been able to catch one time. Months ago, I was house sitting for a friend in the burbs. I was driving her car, running errands and came across the program "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me." It's an hour-long news quiz program that features topical questions, a panel of comedians and hilarious answers. It was so funny, I actually found myself not wanting to exit the car to finish my errands. The program stuck with me, but I hadn't heard it since that one time.

When this month's Chicago Magazine came out, I once again stumbled across "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" - this time in print. There was an article about the host, Peter Segal's, new book "The Book of Vice." In the article, I learned the program airs on WBEZ 91.5 FM on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and Sundays at 9 a.m.

Very excitedly, this Sunday morning I plugged in my old boom box circa Christmas 1998. I tuned to Chicago Public Radio and heard the morning's top news stories. NPR has phenomenal news programming, but I really wanted to hear "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" for a second time. I then did something I maybe should have done a long time ago. I used Google. Not long after I found the show's Web site did I see a link to the its latest broadcast. So not only could I listen to the show I missed, I could listen to the show whenever I wanted.

And I share this because I think you all should too.

October 15, 2007

Short Changed

Today was a beautiful fall day. One that made me glad the steamy, summer days are over. I walked to the CVS around the corner to pick up some things. It was just too nice a day, so instead of heading right back to work I decided to do a lap around the block. I was heading east on Adams when I spotted the post office. I remembered I was fresh out of stamps and decided to pop in and visit the stamp machines.

I walked up and checked out my selections. Fifty stamps were too many and five stamps too few. I settled on a book of twenty. Twenty stamps go for about $8 these days. I examined my wallet and found nothing but twenties. I saw the machine took $20 bills and I'd made the trip, so I figured why not. The machine took my 20, and gave me change - in the form of 11 mint condition Thomas Jefferson $1 coins.

I didn't even know these existed. And now I have 11 of them.

Looking back, I have no idea what type of change I would get. I guess I was hoping the machine would spit back a 10 and some ones. It didn't, and now I have no idea how I'm going to get rid of these. No vending machines, parking meters or laundromats will accept them. I can't even deposit them in my bank's ATM. If i try to use them as they are intended, I envision endless hassles from clerks not knowing what they are or believing me they are real. These bright, shiny gold coins don't look like real money. They look like new tokens at Chuck E. Cheese. They look like I stole them from a pirate's treasure chest. They might as well be Euros.

What absolutely blows my mind though is that you can currently bid for one of these $1 coins on eBay. And the going price? Two dollars plus $1.50 shipping. Well maybe that's what I'll do with them. Put them up on eBay. Heck, at their going rate, I could consider my $11 in coinage an investment.

October 11, 2007


My co-worker Maggie introduced the word hangry to me a while ago, and I have since used it many a time over like it's my own. It is the perfect word to describe the feeling of being both hungry and angry - mainly angry because you are hungry. I am not hangry at the moment, but foresee this coming later in the day.

I didn't pack my lunch this morning because I got dinner here last night. It was a yummy pasta dish with white wine sauce, pine nuts and shitake mushrooms with garlic mashed potatoes on the side. The portion was huge, so instead of gorging myself I chose to save the remnants for lunch today.

Only someone else had other plans.

When I went into our cafe this morning to place my mid-afternoon snack in the fridge, my pasta was gone. Gone! Sometime between 7:30 p.m. last night and 9 a.m. this morning my pasta vanished. I don't know where it went or who might have taken it, but I am enraged. I refuse to eat only garlic mashed potatoes and black cherry yogurt today, so I will be buying lunch against my will. And I am certain that will create a whole new kind of hangry.

Lesson learned, it's better to gorge.

October 10, 2007

Disconcerting Spelling

You know how sometimes you know you know a word because you hear it more than you spell it. Yet every time you spell it, it you spell it the same way because it is the way you know you heard it? And then sometimes spell check tells you your wrong? I do.

The other day I was composing an email to an attorney at work and before I sent the email it automatically began to spell check. It got to the word disconcerning and said it was wrong. I thought, “No way. How else would you spell that?” Well it turns out you spell it disconcerting. Yeah, that’s pretty much a different word.

Here are some other words spell check has corrected me on time and time again: hilarious (I thought halirious), category (catagory) and voluminous (voluminuous).

It’s a wonder I’m no longer in journalism.

*By the way, I checked my blog today and found it funny that I have not updated since I said my time freed up due to trial postponement. That is only because I've actually been able to do things I'd hadn't for a while.

October 3, 2007

I'm Back!

Today was an unusual day at work. No, I did not break my previous staying-late record (it's 9:30 p.m. by the way). I actually left work before 6 p.m.! My bum was on the train and pulling out of Ogilvie Transportation Center by 5:50 p.m.

This happened for one reason and one reason only. My trial got kicked. What was to be an early November trial date is now a late February trial date. And what was to be a fall of late nights and weekends at the office will now be a winter of late nights and weekends at the office. I love the fall, so a winter of work sounds much more appealing.

The new date does not mean I won't have work to do. There is still plenty my team needs to do in order to prepare for trial. However it does mean that every project I take on over the next three months not have a deadline of 5 minutes ago.

It also means that for those of you who have tried to get a hold of me at a reasonable hour as of late, I might actually be able to take your calls now... at least for the next three months.

September 30, 2007

Going the Distance, Kind Of

I ran a 5K this morning, but I'm not terribly happy with myself. Yes, it is great that I was able to get myself out of bed at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning to run 3 miles, but I'm not happy with my finish. When I crossed the finish line with my co-worker and friend, Sarah, the clock read 42 minutes. Granted, we started the race probably 3 to 5 minutes after the clock started running. Even so, at best we still finished barely under 40 minutes. I have a hard time feeling good about running 13 minute miles. When we ran, I am sure our pace was closer to 11 minute miles, but I felt the need to walk. Sarah and I hit the two mile mark and my brain was screaming for me to stop and walk for a bit. I did and Sarah stopped running with me.

Sarah and I also ran a 5K about a month and a half ago. That 5K was terrible. We ran it right after work on a 85 degree day with about 90 percent humidity. I remember feeling like I had to drink the air in gulps because it was so thick. We stopped to walk twice and finished in 38 minutes.

This morning the weather could not have been more perfect. It was sunny, crisp, and 65 degrees with a slight breeze. Based on this fact alone, I expected my time and performance to improve. It did not. We ran practically the same race. The thing is the conditions were perfect, but my training had not been. Prior to the race, the last time I ran was two Saturdays ago. I won't go into the woes of my schedule (because those of you who read this blog often enough know), but there was not much time to run. However, it frustrates me because even if had gross amounts of time to run, I question if I would have. My motivation to run, workout, eat healthy, be healthy in general has been low. I know a rut, and I am in one.

Almost two years ago, I undertook one of the only sporting challenges I ever have. My former roommate Sara and I ran the Shamrock Shuffle - the world's largest 8K. I was not a runner at that time by any measure, so committing to running 5 miles was a mental and physical challenge. Sara and I did it, and accomplished every goal we had for that race. It was an amazing feeling to cross the finish line. One that I'd like to feel again. But even beyond the finish line, I found a physical strength in the months leading up to the race I didn't know I possessed. That time was the healthiest I have ever felt in my life. To think where I was then versus where I have digressed to now makes me frustrated.

I plan to run the Shamrock Shuffle again this year. I need some kind of motivation - a tangible goal. I want to challenge myself once again. I miss the feeling of accomplishment. It's a much more welcome feeling than the disappointment of having to stop and walk after two miles.

September 29, 2007

The Season is Upon Us

My friend Jenny called me this afternoon to let me know a very disturbing fact. While driving to the park, she spotted an inflatable lawn ornament. (For those of you not familiar with my stance on inflatable lawn ornaments, see here.)

The fact that see saw an inflatable pumpkin adorning someone's front lawn was disturbing, but not surprising since I also had spotted my first inflatable lawn ornament this morning too! On some one's balcony no less. Why someone would chose to take up their only outdoor space with an inflatable is beyond me. It was a shock for both us to see fall/Halloween inflatables already dotting the landscape. We weren't prepared for it. Jenny and I have both gone months without an inflatable in sight. And now they're back to stay, at least through St. Patrick's day.

So the inflatable season is upon us, and I am not happy.

September 27, 2007

Legally Barred

The Medill School of Journalism is regarded as one of the best journalism schools in the country. Located just a short train ride north of Chicago, I have visited Northwestern’s Campus to check out this program. I did this about two years ago when I was considering going back to school. After visiting Northwestern and doing some more research (and soul searching), I opted for the paralegal program at Roosevelt University instead. The cost, location, cost, admissions process and cost were a few of the reasons I opted for becoming a paralegal as opposed to earning my second journalism degree.

Applying to Medill’s graduate program has crossed my mind time and time again - more so with the mentality of do-it-and-see-if-I-get-in than it‘s mine! However, having already taken out loans for a certificate I’m using, it’s hard to justify chucking that for a career I’ve already tried. It seems like my time and money at Roosevelt and my first year paralegalling could be considered a waste if I go back to a career I’ve already abandoned.

My one caveat to this logic has always been a perfect melding of the two - law and journalism. Medill has a degree that does just that. It’s a dual degree where time is split between the journalism and law schools - the idea being that this degree should prepare the student for a career writing about all things legal. It seemed perfect for me.

With this “what if” mentality kicking in full force the other day, I checked out Medill’s Web site to get some basic facts about the program. Seeing none, I sent a quick email to admissions. A few days later, I got my response. The program no longer exists. “Both schools are in process of revamping the program and may offer it again in a few years down the road, which is why you are not able to find any information about the program.”

I guess for now I can stop wondering what if, and maybe go back to asking myself what else?

September 24, 2007

The Daily Bread

I learned tonight that GM union employees went on strike. My sister called to inform me of this tidbit of news. Any UAW or GM activity has always been important to my family because our breadwinner's checks came from General Motors.

My dad has worked for GM (or divisions thereof) for more than 30 years. My dad, and to some extent the entire family, has weathered 30 years of talk of strikes, strikes, night shifts, day shifts, evening shifts, the jobs bank, plant closings, buyouts and the threat of no pensions or severance pay upon my dad's departure from the company. Our family has been through all of this many times over (once again, mainly my dad) and after 30 years, I am tired.

I don't want him to work late nights, or walk a picket line or lose his pension. It's always been my hope that once my sister and I were out of the house and his breadwiner title had diminished, he would say good bye to GM, as well as all the perks, and all the hassles that come with it. Because I'm tired, so I figure my dad must be exhausted.

September 22, 2007

My New Toy

Since day one, I have been unable to connect to a (free) wireless Internet connection in my new digs. Today, I did. I am, as I write this. The difference that allowed me to connect today was simple. I got a laptop!

After talking about getting a fancy, new computer for months and doing some online browsing, I bought this. I am incredibly happy. And I feel very adult. It was one of the bigger purchases I've made. Getting a laptop was certainly not an inpulse buy. I have been wanting one for about a year, but only within the past few months realized it was financially feasible. The overtime I've been working as of late and the overtime that's coming to me over the next two months made this purchase easier to make.

My main reason for getting a laptop was my hatred for working on my home computer. It's a fine computer (thanks, Brian!) but after sitting at a desk for 8+ hours a day, I never had motivation to go home to return to sitting in front of a computer that faces my wall. There's something about sitting on my couch while working that makes a world of difference to me. As I've said, I have been spending a lot of time at work, and I know the end in sight is still two months away. The idea of leaving at 5 and going home to work more seems much better than staying until 8 and dodging the cleaning ladies. Oscar prefers it that way too, which is to say, as is my motivation for most things, my computer was purchased partially out of cat guilt.

The other reason I used to justify my purchase was that if I had a laptop at home I might update my blog more. Case and point, you're reading this now, right?

So while it was great to learn I can steal the Internet again (I'll be purchasing my own soon, don't worry) it's even greater to learn that this blog updating this is a whole lot easier. I hate to get anyone's hopes up, but maybe, JUST maybe, I'll be updathing this blog on more than a monthly basis. And also given that Oscar's sleeping next to me as I type, I can gather he's pretty happy about my purchase too.

September 16, 2007

Trial by Fire

I am a little over a year into my new paralegalling profession. And even though I am a newbie by most of my coworkers standards (as well as mine), I have found myself in both a unique and challening position. I am the lead paralegal on a case set to go to trial in a little over month. It's a case worth millions of dollars and has a team consisting of nine lawyers, one other paralegal and myself. All signs point to the fact that I am grossly out numbered.

Being that I've never gone to trial, I don't know what to expect. But all of my fellow paralegals who have been in my shoes keep echoing the same expectation: You're going to put in a ton of hours. Being that I am writing this entry from work at 7:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night, I don't disagree. I can't disagree, being that I actually starting writing this entry when I was at work at 7 p.m. on Sunday.

The light at the end of the tunnel is that the case is set for trial beginning Nov. 5 in sunny San Francisco. However, at this point I just hope I'm not too exhausted to enjoy my first trip to California.

September 5, 2007

Dance Tall, Carry a Big Stick

Last night was the beginning of my second round of belly dancing classes. That's right, I'm a belly dancer. Well, a novice belly dancer, but a belly dancer none-the-less. I'm not really sure what the end result, if any, of my classes will be, but for now belly dancing is a really fun way to spend my Tuesday nights. Because let's face it, otherwise I'd be doing such exciting activities as washing my dishes or watching Oscar run into walls while chasing a laser pointer.

As I said this class is my second round, yet it's still considered a level 1 class. I'm calling it level 1.1. I took level 1 with two of my co-workers and having not gotten enough belly dancing, we signed up for level 2. However, we weren't quite ready yet. We first had more work in level 1. It turns out that before we learn how to belly dance using canes, we had to master smaller and lighter objects - namely finger cymbals and veils.

Since the class is still level 1, anyone could sign up - beginners and non-beginners alike. As a result, our first level 1.1 class was the same basic movements I mastered over the previous eight weeks in level 1.0. When we began with the same old movements, I immediately assumed the first class would be a breeze.

Belly dancing is very precise and very technical. A movement, such as making a wide circle with my hips, looks simple, effortless and graceful when done by my instructor, Erika. But doing is much different than observing. The first time I tried this same movement, I practically fell over. Erika’s been teaching for a while, so to ensure we're doing a movement correctly she breaks down every move. For example, this one circular hip motion is divided into four moves and then slowly put together until it is one fluid movement.

In level 1.1, we did these slow, controlled movements for each and every move I originally learned months ago. I am happy to say there was a marked improvement between my first 1.0 and first 1.1 class. This time, I was more graceful. I had control (and never once felt like I was about to fall over). Aside from seeing my control in the wall-sized mirror, I could feel it. The slow, controlled movements were just that. And because they were so controlled, they registered more with my muscles. I did these same moves for the first time in July, but I know I didn't do them correctly. It was a delight to learn that this time I was.

So while I may not have learned any new moves in level 1.2 yet, I did learn that those I already know are being done correctly. In no time, I should be wielding a cane.

August 21, 2007

Home Sweet Home

I've been in my new apartment now for a couple weeks. My old place feels like a distant memory now, but that might just be because my new place is so much nicer. Here are a few of the things I have learned to love about it:

A bedroom! After a year of living in a studio, my bed is once again enclosed by four walls.
And since I have a bedroom, it called for an air conditioner. Last year when I moved into the new place, it was on the hottest day of the year. The following week was miserable as well. This year, the first week I stayed in my new place it was in the 90s, but this year I could take it thanks to the window unit.

The living room also is much, much larger - about half the size of my old place, or maybe not. I can't really tell because the ceilings are so high it seems even bigger than it is.Also great about the living room is a built in shelving unit. It's much larger than my old bookcase so I ditched that with the move. It holds everything from my high school diploma to my most recent photos albums, and as I found with my first visitor (thanks, Jenny!) it holds hours of entertainment in the form of my old journals.

Aside from the sheer lack of space in my outdated studio, there were a lot of little things I'd gone a year without. Like hot and cold water that came out of the same faucet. My old bathroom sink had two separate faucets located on opposite sides of the sink. At the new place, I get hot and cold water out of the same faucet. (Really, it's the little things.)
Oscar likes the new bathroom sink too... at least as much as he liked the old one. (And no, he has not been spotted yet. I think it's because he sleeps all day.)

Keeping along with water, my kitchen is a lot better, namely the sink. I moved partially on account of my old kitchen sink circa 1918. So the fact that the new place has a deep sink AND a nozzle sprayer means I am over joyed. I still don't like doing my dishes, but I also don't hate it as much as I used to. The kitchen also is big enough to fit a kitchen table. Whereas in my old place, the chairs were scattered and the table top was propped up against the back wall in my closet, it's fully assembeled in the new place.

And now for the ultimate selling point for me....

An outdoor oasis (ok, maybe a stretch) to call my very own.

That's all I have for pictures. I hope they are inviting enough to make you want to come visit.

July 15, 2007

Never Own a Cat

All of the students who went through Central Michigan University’s journalism school had to take photography. During my required semester of it we had a former alumni now working in the biz come speak to us. I forget his name but do remember three pieces of advice he gave us. His words of wisdom, meant to fall on the ears of undergrads about to try and make it at the journalism game were:
- Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
- Knees do bend. (In reference to getting interesting angles for photos.)
- Never own a cat.

His reasoning for the cat comment was that when you’re young and starting out, you don’t want a cat holding you back. At the time, I wrote off the cat advice, but held on to the others. As of Saturday, the cat advice set in.

I have been searching for an apartment for over a month now. Not wanting to settle for the same type of place I currently have or worse, I admit I have been a little selective. So when the end of this week hit and I still hadn’t seen anything I considered suitable, I got VERY nervous. I had seen apartments out of my price range that were very nice and apartments within my price range that were not nice. Forgive me, but I had a hard time picturing my orange couch set against red wall appearing to be covered in splattered blood. I know, I know. I’m picky. So when a realtor I worked with Thursday called me Saturday morning to say he’d found the perfect place, I was incredibly skeptical. Regardless, I met Jonathon at 10 a.m.

And what Jonathon showed me was a spacious one bedroom on a quiet tree-lined street with a back porch. I was almost immediately sold. After seeing so many places that did not work, I could tell this one would. There was one catch though. Jonathon forgot to check the status of pets. A quick call to The Apartment People confirmed my fears. No pets allowed. “But he’s only one cat. And he’s de-clawed,” I said in protest.

Never own a cat.

Now Jonathon may or may not have said this. I will never confirm either one. But allegedly some people who own cats sometimes don’t let their landlords know they do. They allegedly move into new buildings, bring their cats and once a landlord may or may not find out, the tenant usually won’t get kicked out for having said alleged cat. I also heard from some sources that neither the landlord nor the maintenance man lives in the building. So I may or may not be saying that I may or may not sneak Oscar into the building under a blanket in the dead of night once I move in.

Aside from that, I will confirm that I did get the apartment. The Apartment People called me today to inform me that I got the place. Now all I have to do is meet with the landlord and sign the papers. I will be moving in August 1 and I may or may not have a cat. If I do though, he’s going to have to learn to be realllllllly quiet.

July 11, 2007

Just Chillin'

I have faced the elements thus far in my apartment search. On Saturday, it was blazing heat. Tuesday, I trudged through a torrential downpour only to miss an appointment with a realtor. With round three, which is to take place Thursday, I won’t be surprised if I’m met with hale or gale force winds. The weather may have something to do with the fact that I haven’t found a place yet. It’s that or that I’m too picky.

But in the meantime, Oscar and I are making do with what we have. It’s been pretty hot the past few days, so unfortunately, the Sayre/de la Hoya household has fallen on some hard times. Luckily, I can get away from the heat by heading down the street to Borders, Starbucks or Bed, Bath and Beyond – anywhere with air-conditioning really. I’m not too picky. My strategy is basically to go where I feel I can stay the longest without the staff starting to monitor my activity.

However, Mr. de la Hoya isn’t so lucky. My poor Oscar isn’t welcome at such places, so when I do return home to the stifling heat of my studio, I immediately feel guilty. He still greets me but lately it’s with a sort of a pissed off, where-the-hell-have-you-been meow. I have found one way to relieve both my guilt and Oscar’s heatstroke though….

Yes, that’s my cat in my freezer. And after I did it the first time, I learned he likes it. So I’ll continue putting my cat in the freezer (never with the door shut!) until one of two things happen: it cools down in the Chi or we get new apartment with air. Lord knows I’m trying to find one.

July 7, 2007

The Search Is On

Amenities not in my current apartment:
- Airconditioning
- Cable
- Windows that fully close
- Dishwasher
- Washer and dryer
- Internet

What I have in their place:
- A fan
- Tin foil which allows me to get basic channels
- Blankets (to stuff in my windows during the winter months)
- Liquid soap, a scrub brush and my hands
- Two of the three washers and dryers in the scary basement of my building (the other ones do not work)
- A stolen wireless signal (which I haven't connected to in three months)

It is my hope that with a new aprtment I will be able to get a little more than I currently have. However, I'm finding that I can't get as much bang for my buck as originally thought. I am apartment hunting today in 90 degree heat. I hope to find something suitable, however I know no matter what happens I will be returning to my unairconditioned home.

June 17, 2007

Word Wizard

My bus ride home from work takes anywhere from 30 minutes to a full hour. Being that I’m never really certain how long I’ll be cooped up in the confines of a crowded CTA bus with complete strangers, I always have some activities. I generally have my iPod, a book, a journal and if I’m lucky enough to have gotten a new issue of Glamour or Chicago magazine, I bring those too. If I can, I’ll bring work, but usually my projects require a computer and keyboard not paper and pen.

My other saving grace is the Red Eye. It’s a free daily publication. It contains news (local, national and international), sports and entertainment, as well as daily and weekly listings of things going on in the Chicagoland area. While this is all well and good, I usually take it for the crossword puzzle. I’m a word girl and find that usually I’m done with it by the time I get home. Well not done in the sense that I finished it, but done in the sense that I can’t figure out any more of the clues.

However on Tuesday, I finished it in its entirety! This is only the second time I’ve ever finished a crossword puzzle. It felt good, pretty darn good. And while I didn’t know all the clues, I knew enough to finish it. The ones I didn’t know, I now do. And they are that:
* Fats Domino sang “Blueberry Hill.”
* An FAF is a Brit. Flyboy.
* An eft is a young newt.
* Epees are fencing tools.

Red Marks the Spot

The other day on my lunch hour, Maggie, a co-worker of mine, revealed one of her irrational fears. As a seagull flew by us she said she feared one day that she’ll accidentally hit the red spot on a seagull.


Because they will regurgitate on you.


She went on to explain that baby seagulls know to hit the red spot on the beak of the seagull and when they do, it signals for the mother to regurgitate up dinner.

Having never heard such a thing, I did a little research. And it’s true – at least for the Western Gull.

Who knew? Maggie, that’s who knew.

June 14, 2007


There is no better way to spend a lunch hour than walking around the streets of Chicago on an 80 degree day with a 99 cent ice cream cone in hand.

June 7, 2007

Curiosity Will Kill My Cat

Oscar is a loud cat. His meows can be heard as I reach the first stairwell landing in my apartment building. And on nice days when my windows are open, I can hear him as I walk up to the courtyard. So it was no surprise to me, that he was quite vocal when I got back from my week stay in Michigan. He meowed Sunday night all the way until Monday morning. A week without attention makes for a needy, loud Oscar.

As I was packing my work bag that morning, I felt more guilt than I usually do leaving him alone in my apartment all day long. It worsened with each step down my stairwell - that is until I reached the bottom.

There, in the foyer to my building, lay a doorknob, more importantly the doorknob to my front door - the door I was planning to exit and begin my work day. However, with the doorknob on the ground and an automatically locking door, I wasn’t really sure how I would get out. For all intents and purposes, I was locked in my building.

I ascended my stairs and was greeted by Oscar, whom I know was glad to have me back after only minutes, not days. I lay down on my bed, with Oscar circling around me, and debated whether I could take another day off work. I was sleep-deprived and Oscar was one attention-deprived cat. I proceeded to make two phone calls: one, a very angry call to my landlord, and the other, to my supervisor. I told him I was calling with the weirdest excuse ever to be late to work: I was locked in my building.

Not wanting to use a half day or full day off for such a ridiculous reason, I took the only option I had. There is the front door to my apartment, and there also is a door in my kitchen. I have opened it approximately one time. The day I moved in, I discovered on the other side of it was a stairwell covered in garbage and bird poop. I cleared out the garbage and threw my Christmas tree out there, never to open it again - until Monday that is.

I moved Oscar’s litter box of out the way, as well as the two random chairs I have stacked in front of it. I immediately was as grossed and freaked out by my back stairs as I was the day I moved in. I stepped uneasily and made my way down the unlit, smelly and dirty staircase.

By the time I got to work it was quite late, I was still quite tired but I managed to make it through the day, just barely. On the bus ride home all I could think about was food and napping on this dreary, rainy day. I bought some groceries and walked home, hoping that I would not have to make my way up the scary back stairs. Thankfully, my building once again had a working doorknob.

I got upstairs and noticed my apartment was eerily quiet. I walked into my kitchen and dropped my groceries as soon as I saw my kitchen door open. Everything in my apartment was intact, but I was missing an Oscar.

The kitchen door has no outside lock so there was no way for me to secure it when I left that morning. And to make matters worse, it opens in, so I couldn’t lean anything against it to keep my too-curious-for-his-own-good cat from pawing it open. And that’s just what he had done sometime during the seven hours I was at work.

I walked out onto my back stairs and began calling his name. Nothing. So I made my way down them. Still calling his name, I heard nothing. I got to the bottom and saw the door at the bottom of the stairs wide open. I stepped through it and my worst fears were confirmed. To my left, was a shut door, and to my right was the alley with nothing but an open passageway at its end.

Immediately images of Oscar running through it and out into the Chicago streets hit me. And then the tears did. I walked back up the stairs and by the time I reached my apartment, I was a wreck. I felt like the worst cat mom in the world. What kind of person leaves their cat alone for a week only to lose it the day she gets back? I should have known he’d paw that door open in seconds. I should have left it and found a way out the front door. He could be anywhere by now! He doesn’t have claws! What if he runs into a city rat the size of him? He’ll still try to fight it. God, I’m going to be traveling down Lakeshore Drive weeks from now and see him lying dead on the side of the road!

These thoughts left me barely able to breath and sobbing uncontrollably. I had no idea what to do. I called a friend of mine who has two cats. He assured me right away that Oscar wouldn’t have gone too far. He said they think they’re brave but once they’re outside they get scared. He convinced me that he couldn’t be any farther than under a car on an adjacent street. He said to keep looking. I grabbed my umbrella and headed down the back stairs with as much composure as I could muster. I kept calling his name and when I got to the bottom of the stairs about to head outside, I heard it - a tiny, scared meow coming from the stairwell. I called his name again, he answered back. And in the shadows I could see the white of his head on the bottom landing.

I rushed over and felt him to see if he seemed hurt. He did not, and I scooped him up in my arms, with tears once again streaming down my face. I held him tightly and as he squirmed in my arms when we got to my apartment door, I threw him inside. I locked my door and shoved everything back in front of it. Then I turned to Oscar and yelled at him like any angry mother would. And I struck him - something I almost never do, but felt the need to at that moment. I was a wreck with emotion. I was so happy he was alive but a part of me wanted to kill him for scaring me.

Oscar spent that night in the apartment very quiet. He did not come near me for a while. A few hours later after we’d both calmed down, he made him way to me on the couch and plopped his exhausted self in my lap. As mad as I had been before, I was glad I hadn’t lost him. I didn’t really realize how much I like having the little guy around. In the six months we’ve lived together, he’s become pretty important to me. Say what you will about crazy ladies and their cats, but I hope to have him around for a long time, loud meows and all. At least they let me know he’s home.

May 31, 2007

A Road Traveled

After a weekend of roughing it in a tent, I found myself Monday night lounging on my parents couch channel surfing. Seeing as their TV is an LCD flat screen and mine has tin foil as an antenna, it was enjoyable to sit and flip mindlessly.

Only somewhat to my surprise, I found myself mesmerized my a documentary of the last days of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. She was the condom-wearing, outspoken rapper of the 90s girl group TLC. I remember when she died years ago thinking how crazy that of all the ways for her to die it was in a car accident in Central America. Now, having been to Central America myself, I was a little more curious to see how it was she spent her last days.

On my, Sara and Kristin’s Honduran adventure, we spent three days on the north coast of Honduras in Sambo Creek, a small village just outside the larger resort town of La Cieba. I was a little shocked to see La Cieba, Honduras as the place where most of the documentary was shot. However, I was speechless when they showed the last five minutes of Lopes' life. She turns the camera and says, “Hey let’s go down to Sambo Creek and shoot some of the vibe there.” Minutes later, she is shown driving very serenely down the road. There is a slight yelp and the camera pans to show the car swerving off the side of the road. Then it goes blank.

The road they were traveling on was the same road Sara, Kristin and I took countless times as we came and went during our three days on the Honduran north coast. I, of course, did not know this at the time we were driving - none of us did. But it is a little cool and a little creepy now to think we passed by that spot countless times without even knowing it bore any significance.

Lessons from a Five-Year-Old

I am at my parent's home in Michigan this week. With two weekends in a row of Michigan-related activities (camping and a wedding), I decided it best to take the week off instead of spend it in transit. And since I had nothing planned during the week, I was able to fill in babysitting duties of my nephew Jordan.

Here is what I learned today from Jordan:
- A Lego shark will float in water but a Lego snake will not.
- A dragon drawing isn’t complete until you add the scales.
- In Playstation 2 Lego Star Wars, you need to shoot at plants to get the gold and silver coins.
- Flat Stanley likes to read stories.
- It is more fun to throw toy cars over a sprinkler than it is to play in it.
- Jared’s beetle isn’t where they buried it any more.
- “And they didn’t kill anyone” is a happy ending to a good story.

May 22, 2007

Against The Odds

Phones are all about numbers. We use the numbers on ours phone to dial people. We collect other people’s numbers to call them. In the calendar of my phone, I use the dates to store starting and stopping times to mark events. Phones cannot exist without numbers, so it’s ironic that right now numbers are screwing up my phone service.

I hosted a bachelorette party this past weekend. Six girls (a number I previously thought impossible) stayed in my 500 square foot studio apartment. We gallivanted around Chicago and after hours of drinking, dancing and one fantastic drag show, we made it back safe and intact. The same can not be said for my phone.

We strolled into my apartment at 3 a.m. and my phone was on its last bar of service. This is not uncommon in any way. My phone over the past month has kept a charge for no more than 15 minutes at a time. I plugged it in not long after walking through my door but realized it wouldn’t take. The port where the charger connects was no longer intact. Without the charger my phone was rendered a very high tech paperweight. I couldn’t say I was all too surprised. One would expect that charging a phone approximately five times a day will result in a little wear and tear.

The previous week I went to a Verizon store to see if something could be done to salvage what little was left of my battery. There was nothing, and the best I was offered was a new battery for $32.95. The sales rep informed me I was due for an upgrade in a little less than two months - July 15, 2007. Not wanting to waste over $30 on a battery I’d used for a short amount of time, I chose to wait it out. Little did I know, my phone had another plan.

I marched to the closest Verizon store the day following the bachelorette party with one useless phone in hand. Thinking I’ve been a Verizon customer for nearly four years and that I’d be renewing my contract for another two in less than two months, I figured a new phone at a discounted price was as good as mine. To Verizon, those numbers did not add up, though. I left the store 10 minutes later with the number to customer service - something I felt sorely lacking at Verizon at that point and time.

When I finally did call customer service, I did to no avail. The lady on the phone told me pretty much the same thing as Russ at the store. “No, you can’t have the upgrade a few months early.” And when I asked what the reasoning was, the answer was along the lines of “because I said so.”

“Customer service” lady told me I had one of two options: to buy a new phone at full price (no) or to pay the $50 deductible through my insurance and get a new phone. It was a better option but still one that left me threatening to cancel my service all together. Why pay $50 for a phone I’ll use for less than 50 days? I inquired into canceling my service early - $175. Not a great option either. I hung up with “customer service” lady and calculated my options. In the end, it was cheapest to get the insurance phone and ride out my contract until September. In September I will switch phone companies, and while the digits on my new cell phone won’t change, I’m hoping the attitudes in customer service will.

For those of you reading, take note that I probably won’t have a working phone until Wednesday night. If you need to get a hold of me before then, try email. And if you have any suggestions as to which carrier I should switch to come September, I’m open to recommendations.

April 25, 2007


My escape from the concrete and steal that surrounds my Chicago apartment is the park and lakeshore. Both Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan’s shores are located a short walk from my place. I moved to this area of Chicago less than a year ago and ever since have considered myself very fortunate to be able to enjoy nature whenever I want. In minutes, I can be walking through the park or running down the lakeshore path, enjoying that the city’s skyscrapers are a backdrop to the water’s edge. Or that instead of running on a sidewalk alongside traffic, the sounds of bleating horns and revving engines are in the distance instead of immediate.

But then I went to Honduras.

As I said in my previous entry, true vacationing to me is meant for experiencing a life unlike my own. Honduras served that purpose in many aspects of my trip, but none so powerful as visually. The difference in the change of scenery from the varying elevation of Chicago’s skyscrapers as compared to the varying elevation of Honduras’ mountains went a long way to provoke my ideal vacation feeling. It also helped that every place Sara, Kristin and I stayed was surrounded with they type of nature I’d have to travel for days to find anywhere outside Chicago’s limits.

The first place we stayed the Hotel Canadien - a cozy resort located in Sambo Creek on the north coast. The grounds were lush with palm trees, two outdoor swimming pools, plenty of lounging chairs, and balconies that begged me to stroll and enjoy the Caribbean breeze from every possible vantage point. And should me and my traveling companions grow tired of the hotel’s inviting ambience, just opposite of its wrought iron gate was the Caribbean. The opposite view from the ocean bein the hotel set at the base of lush, green mountains. My typical view in Chicago is of my neighbor’s drapes just across the courtyard.

Sara, Kristin and I found our days in Honduras generally started early and ended early. My favorite time at the Hotel Canadien quickly became early in the morning, before breakfast. I soaked in the breeze in one of the two hammocks just outside our room, curled up with a book . Some of our afternoons were spent lounging by the pool and some of our nights were spent dining seaside.

This is not to say the entire country lives this well, by any means. We passed plenty of homes throughout our trip that had no windows, no doors and some times a patchwork of tin for roofs. We drove through pueblos that, had they been located in the U.S., I would have been scared out of my mind waiting for the sound of gun shots. These places felt much different in Honduras, though. In these tiny villages, we stopped many times and asked directions and always found a helpful soul willing to point us in the right direction - granted sometimes advice was followed by the request for a few lempiras (Honduras’ national currency). But I still never felt scared. Honduras is most definitely not a wealthy country, but even in passing through these small communities there was an undeniable spirit of togetherness and closeness that is lacking in a major way in most major cities - Chicago included.

Our time at the Hotel Canadien last just a few days and then it was off to our second home of the journey. We spent just one night at the D&D Brewery, but it was enough to make a lasting impression. Sara, Kristin and I made our way to the middle of the Honduras on Wednesday. We arrived at the D&D, nestled just outside El Lago de Yajoa (Honduras’ largest lake). The D&D is tiny, but it attracts people from all over the world. This fact is understandable given that its charm is immediately apparent.

We stepped down the stone entryway to find a small swimming pool and cabin, where we checked in. Adjacent to it were three covered areas with chairs and tables that served as the gathering spots for whoever was staying in the D&D’s cabins, bunks or camping on its grounds. We spent the majority of our time at the brewery eating and playing cards at these tables. On Thursday morning, I walked through the property snapping photos of the plant life, which again is located nowhere near my surroundings in Chicago.

The nature there was apparent everywhere. I felt as if I couldn’t escape it, but I also didn’t want to. It was intoxicating to sit, feel the breeze, let the sun warm my face and become wrapped up in the small sounds of life carry on around me. In Chicago, my apartment is the place where I find solace. It is sitting on my couch at the end of the day that calms me from the previous eight, frantic hours I spent at work. But that feeling pales in comparison to Honduras. There I didn’t want to be indoors. The places we stayed were wonderful, but they couldn’t match the tranquility I found being in nature. I preferred the shade of trees to a roof over my head.

Our final resting place on our Honduran adventure was El Rancho Sante Fe - the orphanage where Sara works located about 45 minutes outside the capital of Tegucigalpa. To sum up, it looks and feels like a giant summer camp.

Sara and the other volunteers stay in their own building, separate from the orphans on the ranch. It’s a square building enclosing a giant courtyard with a giant tree. The building is flanked by two person rooms that the volunteers share. The kids on the ranch stay in much larger buildings. Sara’s girl, a rag tag bunch of sassy, giggly 11 and 12-year-olds, sleep about 40 to a room on bunks three-beds tall. Each kid has one locker that holds their entire wealth of worldly possessions. I felt greedy thinking of how sometimes I feel cramped in my larger-than-average, three-room studio. The girls also share a courtyard and living/game room. It appears, though, they spend a lot of time outdoors. If they’re not doing one of their many chores, like cleaning or tending to their gardens, they’re running and playing and being kids the best way they know how.

As was typical in Honduras, we got slightly better treatment on the ranch than most Hondurans enjoy in their daily life. We stayed in a newly constructed building with its own kitchen and rooms with toilets that work the way we Americans know them to work. However, we didn’t have hot water, which unfortunately is the norm for Sara.

El Rancho Santa Fe is set on several acres of land. Small buildings sprout up in its gently sloping terrain, but for the most part its open and peaceful. What the homes and shelters of Honduras may lack in modern amenities, they certainly make up for in their the neighboring scenery. Even though we stayed in different locations with different surroundings in Honduras, each one held its own natural beauty. It was something I hadn’t even realized I missed until I was there. The lakeshore and my neighboring park in Chicago pale in comparison to the raw, untouched beauty of Honduras. It’s found everywhere - in the distant jutting mountains on the north coast, in the neighboring streams and ponds of the Lago and in giant trees that spring forth from of the ranch’s land.

On our first day, as we drove up to the coast, it appeared to me that the country and the people had so little. As we passed dilapidated homes, four-person families sharing one bike simultaneously, children in tattered clothes selling honey on the side of the road, I could help but wonder what people did to pass the time. I guessed most of the country’s inhabitants had no TV, no neighboring malls, no movie theaters and not any first class (or second class) dining. Was this it? Did they tend their gardens, wash their clothes and sell whatever little they had to spare? Did they then end their days with sparse meals, go to bed in their door-less homes and be bothered by the buzzing of mosquitoes and flies all night? I couldn’t imagine a life so slow – a life without the endless pursuits of the American ideal. But by the end of the trip I had a much different view. I saw their lives were full. Full of a slower pace of life – of actually living their lives and enjoying their lives, lazily dreaming away the days surrounded by untouched paradise.A special thanks to my tech support (AKA Mike) for bringing photos to this entry.

April 16, 2007

Honduras: Part One

The purpose of traveling, to me, is stepping out of my comfort zone. I travel hoping to experience a life different from my own and for as long as I’m able to escape. Honduras certainly fulfilled those requirements. There were points in my adventure south of the border where I felt as if I were operating in a universe polar opposite from my standard routine. It was bliss. I hope with my next few blog entries to explain how I learned life in Honduras could be so different, yet wonderful, from my daily life in Chicago.


Visiting a third-world country caused a certain amount of anxiety on my part. Having never traveled somewhere with that classification, I didn’t now what to expect - especially in the way of cuisine options. Sara has lived in Honduras since July. She has not mentioned being on a starvation diet - just a little sick of eating rice and beans. I figured at the very least I wouldn’t starve. I could eat beans and rice for a week if need be.

Our first day in Honduras consisted of a long drive up to the north coast. It gave Kristin, Sara and me plenty of time to catch up and view the country in a way I would not have otherwise. We saw the terrain change from the burnt-colored grass and trees of Tegucigalpa in the dry season to the lush greenery of the tropical north coast. And sprinkling the side of the road throughout our journey were people selling all sorts of goods and food. At one point we stopped and bought litchi nuts - a prickly, red fruit with a sweet, pulp center. We also stopped for this sugary, fig like fruit and pollen, which I’ve been eating on my Cheerios the past week.

I describe my vacation as a Honduran roadtrip. And what is a roadtrip without pit stops. Our first stop was also my first expose to licuados - something Sara has already said she will miss greatly when she returns to the States in August. Licuados are like smoothies, only better. Made with fresh squeezed oranges or milk and additives ranging from fresh papaya, mango, strawberries and granola, they proved to be as delicious as Sara said.

As much as I would have loved to feast on licuados the entire time, we did not. What I think I ate even more of, was French fries. They were served with almost every meal I ate. Tuesday morning, we ate breakfast on a veranda overlooking the Caribbean at the Hotel Canadien . It was delicious meal of eggs, fresh fruit, toast, beans and French fries.

But beyond the very American French fry, I can say I felt very at home when we made our way to the D&D Brewery. We spent our Wednesday night in Honduras at the tiny brewery run by Bob, an ex-pat from Oregon. We cozied into our cabin nestled in the jungle, played some cards and then proceeded to stuff ourselves silly with corn dogs, onion rings, potato soup, cerviche and, in the morning, hearty blueberry pancakes. Sara has stayed at the D&D many times, with many other visitors and she told us it was a place to chill out and eat. So we did. The selection of beer wasn't all that bad either.

Needless to say, we ate well the entire trip. Something that Sara admits isn’t necessarily a daily occurrence on the ranch. Sara often says the monotony of beans, rice and hot soup leaves a lot to be desired. Kristin and I only ate one meal on the ranch. The saving grace of Sara’s diet on the ranch is the fruit. The children for the most part grow and raise their own food, but fruit, depending on what is in season, is delivered to the ranch daily. I can say if I lived in Honduras I would eat a steady diet of fresh fruits.

As Kristin and I arrived, mangos were coming into season. We stopped in the town of Tela on Thursday on our way to the ranch. We paused there to collect some souvenirs, get some cash, retrieve a hoodie for one of Sara's friends and find some bathrooms. On the way out of town, Sara stopped the car and I jumped out to buy some fresh mangoes from a roadside vendor. I purchased three small bags brimming with fresh mangoes. As Kristin, Sara and I pulled out of Tela and onto the next leg of our adventure, we ate the sweet fruit. It was mango like I have never tasted before. The juice instantly began running down my fingers and I started to understand how living life in a third-world country could certainly be sweet.