As I have mentioned before my regular bus routes are some of the most used in the city resulting in stuffed buses all the time. As I was on the bus on Tuesday morning heading to classes I witnessed a rather unique woman. Before telling the story I must share that I had three different papers due that day so I had not gotten my normal hours of sleep the night before. I was lucky enough to get a seat on Tuesday but the aisle quickly filled up next to me. A woman quickly grabbed my attention once the bus got moving again. She kept looking around trying to figure out where to place her hand. The way traffic is in this city it really is best to hold on at something. Even when holding on there can be sudden stops. I can’t tell you how many amateurs I have seen either fall or nearly fall in the aisles. (am I a city snob?)

Anyways, this woman was not holding on to anything and I noticed how every time the bag of the man standing behind her in the aisle touched her sucked her breath in and tried to become as little as possible. She would apologize to everyone around her if she got too close. When on the bus it is guarenteed that you will touch and be touched by many, many people. I didn’t understand all the apologies but she never stopped. I couldn’t help staring but I was fascinated. It was becoming quite obvious how uncomfortable she was that the man’s bag would touch her arm. She kept brushing her sleeve with a paper as if she was getting rid of the dirt. She was having a really hard time maintiaing her balance and I watched as she looked from the bar to the seat from the bar to the seat trying to decide where she would hold on. I can’t even imagine the conversation going on in her head. Eventually she took a glove out of her bag and held on to the bar above. My stop came and I wasn’t able to watch any longer. I wonder how she gets through her day. I have decided she is scared of dirt and germs. I wish her well.

In other unrelated news, I have found myself a job for the summer. I am going to be working at the Lincoln Park Zoo. No, I won’t be doing social work with the animals (though I wonder what it would be like trying to do group therapy with the monkeys…) I am actually really looking forward to the position. I was needing a job that I could take and not feel guilty about leaving at the end of July. Luckily this is a seasonal position so it works out perfectly. Also, it is a ten minute bus ride or twenty minute walk which is really great. I will do all kinds of jobs such as run the carousel or work a concession stand which doesn’t sound glamorous but I will get to be outside and be with families which is what I have been studying so… Also, while being an employee I get admission to all the museums in the city free for me and a guest. I will definitely be visiting all the museums this summer and any guess that comes to visit. With admission costing almost $20 for the aquarium the free pass sounds pretty amazing.

I getting ready to head home for a week on Friday. It’s spring break at my internship site and holy week (yeah for attending a Catholic school who gives breaks!) so I am giving myself another spring break before coming back and finishing up the semester. My last day is April 23rd which is crazy to me. Is my summer really only three weeks away?

Amazing Weekend

March 23, 2009

My little brother Alan came and spent the weekend with me here in Chicago and it was awesome.

On Friday we went out for the traditional Chicago-style pizza and then made our way to Baby Wants Candy. I don’t really take advantage of nightlife here so it was fun to go out with Alan. The show was a really hilarious improv musical show. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and at $5 for students I definitely want to go back.

We slept in on Saturday and evetually made our way to a cute and cozy diner for some lunch. I have passed the diner so many times since living here and Alan seems to appreciate trying out restaurants so he was my perfect companion. The whole weekend was sunny and warm so it felt great getting out. After lunch we made our way downtown to do some shopping. I sort of felt proud getting to show Alan around the city. I was able to take him down to all the buildings that I have classes in. It might seem silly, but it meant a lot to be able to show someone where it is that I spend my time. After walking by school we did some shopping getting clothes that wasn’t needed but fun to get.

Shopping really wore us out so we headed back to my place. Alan and I are secretly foodies so we made a trip to whole foods to take in all the ridiculously overpriced items. Inspired by some bruschetta from the night before we made some on Saturday and Alan made us some delicious spaghetti and meatballs. I was able to show Alan that not all wine is gross,  in fact I think he was quite surprised at how good wine could be.

After another late morning on Sunday we headed out for another shopping trip. We ended up not getting anything that trip but it was fun getting to walk around my neighborhood and getting to show Alan more of where I live. We went to a movie in the afternoon and laughed the whole time and ate too much popcorn. After some Mexican food for dinner I took advantage of the extra hands and brought Alan along with me to the grocery store so that I could get all I needed and get it home without killing my arms. We had a quiet night on Sunday because unfortunately I had to get back to reality today with school and work.

Alan was really nice and, rather than having to take the bus to my meeting, he dropped me off. No matter how many goodbyes I have said over the years, I never seem to be able to handle them well. As we were hugging goodbye I couldn’t really say anything because I was having to hold back tears since I needed to go into work. I had a really great time with Alan and love how as we get older we remain close and that the relationship keeps evolving. I feel really blessed to get along with my brothers so well.

It’s a Struggle

March 13, 2009

I have been on a “journey” (don’t blame me for being cliche) while living in Chicago. I don’t want to say I have battled with my weight my whole life, because I have never really done anything to make it better. However, I can say that my weight has been an enemy of mine for as long as I can remember.

Through a series of many crazy moments, I found myself in Chicago for a year living on my own, going to school for me, and with the opportunity to meet Kelly and only Kelly for the first time in a really long time, if not the first time ever. (still cliche) As I was walking around the neighborhood taking it all in I passed a gym. I still cannot identify what was within me to contact them but all of a sudden I found myself touring the gym and signing a contract for a year-long membership.

I think initially I was consistent in going because I had committed a good amount of money to the membership and since I live my life on loans I couldn’t possibly justify paying for a membership without taking advantage of it. Almost instantly I felt benefits. I was sleeping better and feeling less stressed. I had more energy and felt more calm throughout my day.

Along with working out I started paying more attention to what I was eating. With some initial nutritional guidance from my gym, I started making lots of changes to make nutritious decisions without denying complete food groups from my diet. I started making sure I was eating a nutritious breakfast each morning along with small snacks in between meals. I cut out obvious bad decisions like prepared frozen foods, pizza, fast food, desserts, etc. I do have a bit of a sweet tooth though so I have added dried fruits and sugar-free pudding and Jello cups.

I started this all on September 1st. While the date was unintentional, it has made it easy to keep track of my progress. Before heading home for Christmas break I had lost roughly 35 pounds. With almost a month at home and a trip to Ireland I found myself back in Chicago having put back on some pounds and needing to once again commit to my plan. I started feeling like I couldn’t do it all on my own, so after contemplating a huge financial commitment I connected with a personal trainer. I meet with my trainer two times a week and go to the gym four other times on my own. When I went home for spring break last week I had lost just over 50 pounds.

While I am really proud of my progress, I feel like I am entering a really difficult stage. I am in this weird place right now where I am proud of myself for maybe the first time. I have seen myself be successful and that weight loss is possible but I feel like I have so much more to go. I don’t have a scale in my apartment so it’s easy for me to not get wrapped up in the numbers. I notice small successes each day in how my clothes are too big to wear or how I can see my collar bone now that keep me going. I am moving back to Iowa in August and am hoping to be done 100 pounds which will be 100 pounds down in just under a year. I don’t know how much more I want to go past that but hopefully I will keep the progress going in a new gym back in Iowa. I keep setting more goals as I go along so that it can all feel more manageable.

The hard part right now is that the second I am done eating I start second guessing everything I put in my mouth. I like all the progress I have been making and don’t want to do anything to sabotage my future success. One of the curses of having a weight problem and needing to lose weight is that I still need to eat to survive. A huge mistake a lot of people make is that they under eat and deprive themselves of the appropriate nutrients and calories to encourage weight loss and a higher metabolism. I am on a really intense training regime and I need to take care of my body, especially because I want to have this be a permanent change. There are moments that I wish I was quitting smoking or drinking so that I could just eliminate the evil substance completely.

I am starting to feel really confident in myself at the gym and with all the crazy and amazing things my trainer is having me do. I am desperate to feel that confidence in the kitchen as well.

Ugh, I hope I get through this rough patch soon.

Senioritis?

March 11, 2009

I am not really sure if one can get senioritis in a masters program that is only 12 months, but if it IS possible, then I definitely am suffering. Don’t get me wrong, I am still totally in love with everything that I am studying and really do love all the students and professors I get to be with each week, but I am so tired of being a student. I really like what I get to read but the fact that it is required of me makes it instantly somehow less desirable. I also have to say that I am getting incredibly tired of all the papers. While I know I will undoubtedly have to write at times throughout my career, I won’t miss the nights before a paper is due attempting to write 8 pages of creative, flawless statements of profound clinical interpretations. Social work is so much easier to just do rather than imagine.

My semester is done in six more weeks. That is really insane to me. Thinking about the end makes me cringe thinking about all the papers and reading I will need to complete in that time. Yuck. My internship will also be done at the same time so I suppose I could say my summer starts in six weeks. I am working hard at not dreading the summer. I found out that I didn’t get a job that was really pumped for this summer. I am already over the disappointment and have once again begun the job search. It is sort of an ego-bust to be 24 years old and near the completion of a masters and having to find a summer job. I have two more classes to take this summer on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6-9 starting in June for ten weeks. Since my summer starts at the end of April, I have all of May, June, and July free for a job. If anyone knows of anything, please don’t hesitate to send me suggestions. Tonight I applied to jobs at a zoo. I am definitely putting my social work to good use. Animals need therapy right?

Home Sweet Home

March 1, 2009

I am back in Des Moines and it always feels so perfect. While I am loving all of my time and experiences in Chicago, my heart really does belong in Des Moines. I would have predicted feeling this way, but Iowa is a pretty fantastic state and I am looking forward to completing school and coming back to stay.

For now I will enjoy my spring break as much as I can. I plan on spending a lot of time in coffee shops (right now I am at Scooters) and leisurely getting through some homework and pretty much just wasting time and not feeling guilty about it at all.

Sicky Ms. Sickerson

February 22, 2009

I have to say being sick alone makes one feel quite pathetic. I think it was Wednesday night that I was feeling sort of off but just decided I had had a long day and was tired. That day, my internship site was being audited by the Illinois Board of Education. They were making sure that our school was indeed following all the stipulations in our grant. While the board member was quite nice, it still caused some heightened levels of anxiety. I went to bed Wednesday night and woke up Thursday morning with a head full of pressure.

I found myself some cold medicine and attempted to go about my day. I went to a meeting, class, and even a training session at the gym and trying hard to focus on what was to come. Friday morning I woke up and it felt like I had been hit over the head with death.

I have been battling a fever, cough, runny nose, headache, achy bones, etc all weekend long. I would have a fever, break it, have a fever break it. While being sick is enough of a pain, being all alone is pretty much the worst. I had to get my own tea and medicine. I had to throw away the used Kleenex and cough drop wrappers. I had to fluff my pillows and rub my back.

Feeling sorry for me now? I hope so. While I wouldn’t really want anyone to be around me for fear of them getting sick, it would be nice having someone around telling me that I will soon get better. Luckily I have had by comforting kitty Addy by my side. Yesterday I found myself in a bit of a coughing attack and Addy came over and put her paw on my chest and nuzzled into my arm and looked up at me. I decided it meant she was concerned about me.

Luckily as I type this I feel as I am finally on the mend. I haven’t had a fever today and although the cough is still there, the aches are going away. I am hoping tonight’s sleep will be enough to get me through this last week before spring break.

Weekends at Last

February 11, 2009

For much of my time here in Chicago I have felt like I am not living the “normal” life for a 24 year old. I don’t know what it’s like for other grad students out there, but I am in a constant state of needing to read/write a paper/research, etc. It honestly never ends. The second I feel I am making good progress, I look at a syllabus and realize I have so much more to go. I never seem to be able to read every word but I try and read as much as I can since ultimately its my future clients that are relying on my knowledge.

I think what sets my studying social work apart from other grad programs is that in addition to taking four full-time classes, I am also working almost thirty hours a week at my internship weather it be at the site, in a meeting, in transit, etc. When you put two and two together, it leaves a minimal amount of time free for much else especially after I try fitting in my eating, working out, and sleeping.

I think I make it worse on myself because even though I could probably give up some time to go do something and try and put off some of the reading, most of my classmates are reading or doing something else for school. I seriously love my classmates and often learn as much from them as I do my professors, but we all just seem so busy. Many of them have to find time to actually hold a paying job while managing the reading and internship time. Needless to say, my social life has been nearly non-existent since living here.

Fortunately, February has presented a nice change. This past weekend Nathan, a good friend from college, was in town visiting people and we were able to go to a movie and out to dinner. It was nice to leave the books for a while though I did catch myself thinking about how much reading I was going to have to make up for the next day.

This coming weekend Dana, a friend from my summer in Minnesota, is coming to town and we are heading to the House of Blues to see Matt Wertz and The Alternate Routes. I was trying to remember, but I think this will be the fourth time I have seen Matt Wertz, and the third time at House of Blues. I am really looking forward to it, especially because I think Dana is an even bigger fan than me.

Although both of my social “outings” are with people that don’t live here, I will still bask in the opportunity to not read for a couple of hours.