Friday, June 29, 2007

Vacation Back Log (Day 7)

The singing Cows alone made it worth the stop....

...on our way to here. Yarrrr!!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Vacation Back Log (Day 6)

"Jim's at Fourth and South: best cheesesteaks in the city."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Vacation Back Log (Day 5)

"I want to be a part of it: New York, New York!"

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Vacation Back Log (Day 4)

Time to tour the capitol. And because I'm a nerd, what would vacation be with out some educational stops?

Even when you think you learned a lot about something in school, it's amazing how much you discover you didn't know. And because a day like that needed a more positive note.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Vacation Back Log (Day 3)

Monday, must be Virginia. A day for an amazing tour.
Wow, I could live here.... Yes, Mister Long Dead First President, I'm extremely envious of your home.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Vacation Back Log (Day 2)

Day two placed us here.
Breathtaking and amazing! Yes, that is a house on top of a waterfall. Pennsylvania - who knew??!?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Vacation Back Log (Day 1)

In case anyone's wondering why I haven't blogged in a while it's cause I've been on vacation (say it with me "Ahhhhhh!") Maybe someday I'll supplement this with cool photos of my own but for now here's the scoop day by day - back logged to the day it actually happened.

On the first day of our vacation Tony and I went here.
And also here.

And of course to a super awesome wedding - Congratulations Beth & Rob!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Tale of Two Songs (Part 2)

This entry won't make much sense without reading Part 1 before it, but here's the second song.

The cross before me, the world behind. No turning back,
Raise the banner high - It's not for me, it's all for You.
Let the heavens shake and split the sky, let the people clap
their hands and cry - It's not for us, it's all for You.
Not to us, but to Your name be the glory.
Our hearts unfold before Your throne the only place
for those who know it's not for us, it's all for You.
Send Your holy fire on this offering let our worship burn
for the world to see - It's not for us it's, all for You.
Not to us, but to Your name be the glory.
The earth is shaking, the mountains shouting - It's all for You.
The waves are crashing, the sun is raging - It's all for You.
The universe is spinning and singing - It's all for You.
The children dancing, dancing, dancing - It's all for You.
My all for You.
Not to us, but to Your name be the glory.
~ Chris Tomlin, "Not To Us"

I first heard this song (performed by Chris Tomlin himself) at an i-life conference called ignite at the end of 2002. The lyrics are pretty self-explanitory as to why I would call it representative of my life but little did I know that two years after I heard it, it would come to mean even more. Tony and I picked this song as the recessional song at our wedding. After we were announced as Mr. & Mrs. the opening bars started up and Tony and I joined hands and turned to face our cheering friends and family. "The cross before me the world behind, No turning back" was a perfect phrase for that instant of starting our life together and I'm reminded of that moment every time I hear the song. As much as I like to think about our wedding as the ultimate party it was really an offering to God. Not about us, but rather about bringing glory to the one who gave us life and brought us together. So where the first song I picked was about living a life and relationship filled with prayer, this one is about living a life and relationship focused on worship*.

*Okay sidenot that I had to add: I'm always a little amused too when we sing this song at church and people at the service can be completely unemotional. Granted, I probably have more of an attachment to (and thus involvement in) the song than most people, but there's quite the juxtaposition to singing the phrase, "the children dancing, dancing, dancing" while standing stock still. I know there's no right or wrong way to worship but when it comes to God sending "holy fire on this offering" I much prefer the fireworks display rather than a simple tea light.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Write Stuff

In case you're wondering Part 2 is coming but I came across something oddly blog worthy and just had to point it out. I sometimes entertain weird dreams of writing something really worth reading but when I peruse even the idle thoughts of true writers I find myself too in awe of their talents to count myself anywhere close to them. Case in point, Neil Gaiman. (For the non neo-goth-pulp-noir fiction lovers that missed the gem of a film called MirrorMask and sadly don't recognize Mr. Gaiman's name, expect to hear more about him this summer with the film premier of his novel Stardust - if the movie is half as good as the book it will be a real treat.) I know he's not Twain, Steinbeck or Keats but he's one of those authors with a gift for finding the perfect words to describe the ultimately mundane things of this world in a way that brings you a glimpse of a new sort of reality and makes you wish you could describe life as he does. On his blog he describes the simple task of walking his dog like this:
"Tonight we walked under a sky hung with a million billion trillion stars, and a perfect crescent moon, and watched the constellations of fireflies blinking greenly and magically in the trees and hedgerows like a tiny magical cityscape. Other fireflies would fly up, and arch across the sky and come down like falling stars."
It's the kind of description that just made me sigh pleasantly. His true genius though lies in following up a poetic piece of prose with something like this:
"I sang Stephin Merritt's song "100, 000 fireflies" as we walked, or all of it that I could remember. Dogs don't mind if you forget bits, and the fireflies were too busy flashing and floating and glowing and dreaming to care."
I count it as a sign of literary greatness to bring me to an image of peaceful serenity and then make me laugh out loud.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Tale of Two Songs (Part 1)

A friend asked me the other day why I don't blog about personal stuff very often and my obvious response was "Because it's personal". The further question raised was why I don't blog very much about Tony. I thought about it and came up with the very astute answer of "I don't know". I mean, sure, I mention him in passing plenty of times but I guess there's two pitfalls that I can fall into with a topic such as him. First off, I don't want to be one of those overly sappy people that's constantly gushing about how wonderful my husband is. Don't get me wrong, he is wonderful, I just naturally assume that those who know me have heard me say it and the rest of the world probably isn't too interested. The second reason is that although mine works pretty darn well, I don't want to come across as having some secret to a great marriage that I really can't explain. What I will do, though is explain our relationship in the context of two songs.

Not knowing how true it would come to be, I once told Tony that a song to describe our relationship should be Bon Jovi's "Livin' On a Prayer". Granted it's long held a place on my list of "Best Songs Ever Written" but in a sense it has come to describe Tony and I pretty well. See, we got in the habit of praying together - A lot. I don't say that to be some sort of uber-Christian boast, it's just a fact. Every morning when he drops me at the train station we pray for our upcoming days and every night we pray before bed thanking God for the day and both times we'll lift up friends and family too. We also do the usual praying before meals and at church but it's this morning and night routine that I know has strengthened our relationship to a huge degree. Before you roll your eyes or think that we're just weirdo religious people, think about 12-step programs. Anyone with addiction problems, grief or other life issues is encouraged to take the first step of Recognizing a Higher Power. Who among us can claim to have an issue free life? Everyone has "stuff" going on and even if you don't want to call yourself a Christ follower, hopefully you can see my view that there is benefit to connecting with something larger than oneself. It takes selfishness out of the relationship and we lift each other up and recognize that our marriage is about more than just us. But back to Jon Bon. For those unfamiliar with the song (go out and download it now, please!) the chorus goes:

We've got to hold on to what we've got.
It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not.
We've got each other and that's a lot
For love - We'll give it a shot!
(Woah...) We're halfway there, (Woah-oh!) Livin' on a prayer.
Take my hand and we'll make it I swear:
(Woah-oh!) Livin' on a prayer!

And though I'm pretty sure it was never intended as a religious anthem there is some good stuff in there. "We've got to hold on to what we've got" in a sense could say that we need to cherish and value our friends and family and each other, knowing that it's the intangibles that make life so precious. "It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not" sounds morbid but in terms of eternal life, it's a way to recognize that this world is not all there is - we have life forever with God ahead of us. "We've got each other and that's a lot" speaks to the idea that valuing each other in our marriage is a way to glorify God so "for love we'll give it a shot" and try our best to emmulate Christ each and every day. So then to say that "we're halfway there" can mean that following God is a journey. Our ultimate goal is to see God's kingdom on Earth and although that's difficult to realize, we can make progress if we try to depend on God and be "livin' on a prayer". When there are difficult times to get through we can join hands in prayer and trust God to always see us through ("Take my hand and we'll make it I swear: Livin' on a prayer").

I'm going to save the second song for another blog because this got a little too long and probably a little too cheesy too. Stay tuned for the second song and please note that the picture above is over three years old but it's the only one I had handy right now.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


No not the kind you get in your hair. And not the children's magazine either (although I used to love the hidden pictures...) Rather I want to wrap up a lot of what's been going on without the time for full stories. Previously known as "Unplugged" I give you the highlights of the week.
  • I'd be silly not to start with my grandmother's health. She was in the hospital for most of last week but is back at home and quite a bit better. It just goes to show that there really is power in a praying family.
  • I'm also done with classes and am soon to receive my "Professional Development Certificate in Forensic Science". *cue the CSI theme song* Hard to believe thirty weeks have gone by just like that. I've learned an immense amount of information, met some amazing people that I might never cross paths with again, taken four exams and written a term paper. Will the experience change my future career path? No comment. Or should I say stay tuned...
  • And then there's the Cubs. I'm starting to think a winning streak is harder to find than good shocks on a CTA bus. But just when you want to write them off for the season they do something crazy like play well against the Astros.
  • Finished a great book called Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. It's a really well written biography chronicling the life and times of Nelle Harper Lee author of To Kill A Mockingbird. Sort of makes me want to sit down and write a book that will change the world. Sort of.
  • Also finally read Ptolemy's Gate, the last book in Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy. Really excellent YA fiction - fantasy blended well with humor, adventure and politics if that makes any sense at all. One of those books with the perfect ending that has everything you didn't want to happen but would not be a good book if it ended any other way. (LibraryThing is down otherwise I'd add cool links.)
  • Gearing up for a much needed vacation, too. It's going to involve a minimum of four states - more likely six or eight - and an undisclosed number of stops and sights. Hardest thing about spontaneous road trips? Not planning them.
I'm sure that's not all but it's enough for now. Smiles & sunshine!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Silence of Cicadas

I've come to the conclusion that cicadas are the Spinach of 2007. The media has once again made us panic and essentially freak out over something that has turned into a minor ripple of consequence. In fact the spinach debacle of 2006 was actually more detrimental to health and picnics than the nonexistent plagues of noisy insects are turning out to be. But one thing is annually constant in the world of summer annoyances: train delays.

Seriously folks, I can ride the train ten or twelve times a week for eight months out of the year with naught but a minor impedance but once summer, or at least late spring, attacks say goodbye to being on time. Oh sure, it might be worth a minor complaint if trains were a few minutes off schedule once or twice in a week, but as I all too fondly recall the middle of June last year and the ever so insane Stearic Acid incident, I find that warm weather seems to incur multiple and increasingly lengthy (often half hour or more) alterations for expected arrival times.

Case in point this week. As I was taking the late night train home after class on Tuesday, we were less than ten minutes out of Chicago when the train stopped. It was the bad stop too. Ride the train long enough and you can tell the difference - the normal "good" stops are pre-announced where as the alternative are preceded by a distinct hiss of emergency breaks and generally occur without a station in sight. What made matters worse and exceptionally more frightening was the voice from the walkie-talkie of the nearest conductor that proceeded to tell everyone within earshot, "Looks like someone's laying on the tracks." Trust me, not the words you want to overhear especially when they're followed by the loudspeaker announcement of, "Sorry for the delay here, folks. We may have run over something... or someone. We're sending some officials to go check it out. Thank you for your patience." And I'm really not sure why they were thanking us for patience because really, what choice do we have other than to be patient when stranded between stations on a train that may or may not have just killed someone?? But regardless it was later discovered that the "someone" in question had fallen asleep on the middle track (there's a three track system inbound and outbound on the outer tracks with the middle for freight and transfers) and was perfectly fine with the exception of being startled at awakening to train conductors and railroad police asking if he/she was alright. It was later announced that the individual was "in no condition to be left alone" so the train backed up to allow the sleeper to board and then kindly dropped him/her off at the next station (to an awaiting ambulance and ERT). The story speaks volumes to the compassion and efficiency of Metra staff and I guess also proves that it's possible to hail a train instead of a taxi cab. It's by far the most interesting train story I've had all year but as it was followed yesterday by a train striking a car at a crossing (with an assumedly less happy ending) I have to wonder at the effect of the warmer weather on increasing the incidence of incidents.

So I guess what I have to say is don't be stupid around trains. Maybe when it's warm people think a stroll along the tracks - or even a little nap on the rails - is a good idea. Maybe in the summer rush they they think their car can make the crossing because it's hot and they don't want to wait. There's a reason though, that Metra has begun making the morning announcement, "Did you know a train hitting a car is the equivalent of your car running over a soda can? Look, Listen, Live!" Seriously, they say "soda", not pop. What's the deal with that? But seriously, seriously, it's not really something I should joke about. I hate being late to work but even more than that I hate the thought that summer brings out recklessness that leads to injuries or deaths. Be safe people.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A New Leaf

I've had a mini hiatus from blogging (never fear, I have returned...obviously) but I'm back on track with a lot of new stuff going on. I've officially left Northwestern with only a slight bittersweetness to the farewell. I'm now set up on the opposite side of town at the University of Chicago. Esentially the same job with a much more impressive title yet only a meagerly more impressive paycheck. The campus down here is really nice, though. In a sense I feel as if I'm back in college. At NU the atmosphere was much more big-city-posh-rockstar-lifestyle with Water Tower Place and Michigan Avenue and all that fun stuff. Now as the weather - if not the calendar - reflects the heart of summer, I find myself trading noontime shopping trips for lunchtime walks on the quad. Yes that's right, we have a quad! Complete with SAGE-loving quad squirrels! (SAGE as you'll recall was the unofficial U of I group: Students Against the Gluttony Of Squirrels - the E stands for "of squirrels".) Everything is very green and with plenty of ivy-covered stone edifices one could stare at the walls and almost imagine being at Wrigley Field... and one could also imagine up a much better season for the north-siders... but I digress. Overall it's looking to be a wonderful transition and I'm perfectly excited for the opportunities before me. Here's to a new place and a new leaf!