javascript:void(0) busy that day...: 2011

it's not me, it's you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

really busy that day.

I think there comes a time in every blog's life where they get tossed aside, forgotten and bypassed for shinier, prettier or more pressing things.  It seems the last 3 months have been this blog's such dormant period.  My apologies-- we've had a bit of a wild ride.

J lost his job at the end of August, the result of an incident with his supervisor that was turned into a scapegoat for company financial mismanagement.  We've been jerked around since then with unemployment.  We were lucky to have the benefit for about six fulls weeks until losing an appeal filed by his former employer two weeks ago.  We are now engaged in litigation, which is exactly the sort of thing you DON'T have money for when you're a one-income family.

It's been an experience, though... on one hand, I have my hilarious, loving boyfriend back, and I cherish that more than anything.  On the other, we are struggling financially, and it is starting to take a toll on me.  I never imagined being the sole provider for our family, and quite honestly, make just enough money to pay the bills and have a little left over for the month.  The bright side of all of this is that we are ok-- we can't live as comfortably as we once did, but we have a place to live, clothes to wear and food to eat.  Others aren't as fortunate, and I am especially cognizant of that at this time of year.  It also gives us a great opportunity to re-evaluate where we are-- J never got to finish college and it looks like this is the perfect time for him to pick back up and get his degree.  As a strong believer in higher education (and an employee of a university), I couldn't be more thrilled for him.

That's the update on our personal struggle for now.  Updates to follow soon regarding our recent trips to Virginia and the Bahamas, my own work-related stress and our plans for the holidays.  Welcome back, readers!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

time management.

It's funny that summer is my easiest season at work, but busiest personally.  I think it's a little silly that I haven't updated this blog in nearly two months-- my time management skills are not at their peak in the summer when I actually have time to breathe at work and enjoy myself at home!

It's been a good summer, overall.  I am over the moon with how productive we've been at work-- the amount of things we've accomplished is staggering.  However, it makes me a little apprehensive for the semester to begin.  The days of quiet focus fly out the window in exchange for deafening chaos.  I've been in this field for almost 10 years now, and it still takes some adjustment every August!

We've been super busy at home as well.  Jeremy's football schedule rules the roost once games start in June-- every Saturday is all but devoted to the love of the game.  We sleep in, eat lunch by 1pm so J has enough time to digest before playing, and he's off to the field by 330.  I hang out at home or run errands and head to the game by 7, and by the time it's all over and we've grabbed (hopefully a celebratory) dinner, it's 11pm!  This season, the Lions are doing pretty well.  Hopefully their momentum will carry them to a playoff season again, just as in previous years.

Beyond football, we've spent a lot of time with friends.  There's a lot going on all around-- new babies, big moves, birthdays and more!  The next baby to arrive, however, is the most exciting for me.  Ellen and Andy's little boy will be here within the next three weeks!  I can't wait to meet little man.  As sad as it was for Ellen to leave at the beginning of July, I am so grateful for technology that allows me to text/call/IM her every day.

I was able to go home for a week in mid-July.  Time just flew by, as I had scheduled myself pretty much down to the minute before I even landed in Virginia.  I spent time with my favorite little boy, my parents and sister, traveled to Richmond and Charlottesville to catch up with great friends and even squeezed in a mini-trip to the Outer Banks (one of my favorite places on earth).  It was much-needed away time, but also... enlightening.  As I get older and my parents age, I do miss my family.  However, it was a big lesson to learn that my parents might not necessarily realize that I have aged as they have-- it's hard to be treated like a child when you're 30!

I'll lay this lengthy review to rest for tonight with a(nother) promise to update more often again.  I suppose now that busy time is setting in at work, my blogging skills will revive as well?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

introverted introspection.

Watching me at work, you might not know that most personal interactions, especially with groups, make me extremely anxious.  I tend to hide my discomfort well, a combination of great public speaking classes and forced personality changes when on the clock.

Those who do know me both in and outside of the office understand-- I'd much rather spend a day with one or two close friends, chatting and enjoying a quiet place than experiencing the sensory overload of a crowded, loud space.  I'm an introvert at my core-- a trait I think comes partially from my shy father and homebody mother.

This being said, I was too excited to see this article posted in my friend Ellen's google reader the other day.  Finally, a primer for helping people understand me!  It's so odd to be around extroverts all the time (my field tends to be chock full of 'em) who don't understand why I may sometimes come across as cold or boring.

In the case of Jeremy, the conversation is generally more "OMG WHY WOULDN'T I WANT TO GO TO A DAY LONG CONCERT AND THEN GO TO A PARTY AFTERWARDS?!"  It's hard being in a relationship with an extrovert-- J craves social interaction, has a lot of friends and always has something on the agenda.  I, however, am simply exhausted when even thinking about some of the things we have on deck sometimes.  It takes a lot of out of me to be talkative around people I don't know and to force interactions-- I  hate that this makes me come across as a bitch sometimes, but it's who I am.  If you don't believe me, pay special attention to Myth #10 in the article I posted above.

So, dear reader, are you an introvert or extrovert?  What do you find the hardest to deal with when interacting with "the other type"?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

bundle of joy.

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of honoring my very best Chicago friend, Ellen, with a baby shower!  Ellen and her husband, Andy, are expecting their first child in early September (Jeremy hopes that the baby will arrive on his birthday).  I am super excited for them to become parents, but admittedly, terribly sad-- Ellen and Andy are moving about 500 miles away to eastern Ohio in three weeks, as Andy embarks on his career as a college professor.  Such is life in academia, I suppose.  We have to go where the jobs are!

The shower was a lot of fun to plan-- it is rare that I get to plan an event for myself to enjoy!  I was fortunate enough to have two co-planners in two of Ellen's close friends, Anna and Gwen.  Each of us filled kind of a unique niche in the planning genre, so it was a great way to divide labor, creativity and funding!

We held the shower on the campus of Loyola University Chicago, in a little hidden gem of a room, the Mundelein Center Greenhouse.  Overlooking Lake Michigan, the Greenhouse was the perfect location-- sunny, breezy and easily configured for different seating arrangements.

This view faces east over Lake Michigan.  I LOVE the round balloons that Anna found!

Ellen is a very crafty lady, so we chose some activities that focused on her interests.  Gwen purchased a shadow box and craft supplies, and we allowed guests to spend some time crafting a memento for the box.  Anna also supplied an instant camera and scrapbook, where guests could take photos and write a note to the family.  We strayed from the cheesy games in favor of another Ellen favorite-- trivia!  It was a fun, interactive way to enjoy the shower.  

Since the shower was held in mid-afternoon, we served light snacks like veggies, hummus, chips, salsa, fruit skewers, cupcakes and sparkling limeaide.  The cupcakes were delicious-- I wish I could say I made them myself, but I  have to admit they came from The Fresh Market , one of my favorite stores!  

The banner reads "IT IS YOUR SHOWER" - bonus points if you can name what TV show it was inspired by!

After the games and obligatory gift-opening, we spent some time talking and mingling.  The afternoon ended with the best part of any event-- the favors!  We hadn't really thought much about favors until a week before the shower, and were admittedly strapped for ideas.  I love the way that a local cupcake boutique, more, packages their goods, and suggested the idea to Anna and Gwen.  We took the idea and ran with it, since we already were ordering cupcakes for dessert.  I absolutely adore the way they turned out-- Anna designed the labels and Gwen found the perfect ribbon to complement the idea.

Takeaway boxes, labels, ribbon and cupcake - total cost around $2.50 per favor!

The idea for this shower was that simplicity and the guest of honor's personality should dictate the event.  We were inspired by countless items in Ellen's google reader, which helped frame some of what we did.  I definitely recommend soliciting the help of friends when planning an event like this-- it made things much less stressful and costly, and it helped to have others to rely on!

Most of all, I was so happy to be able to share the day with Ellen.  Friends in a big city are quite hard to make, and Ellen has always been there for me.  I am sad that she'll soon be so far away, but I am so happy to be a part of her life!  I can't wait to meet her baby boy soon and enjoy all that is to come for their family.

Monday, June 6, 2011

cruisin' along.

About a month ago, you might recall that I posted about the search for our next vacation.  While our requirements were stiff, we finally found a winner a few weeks ago, and I forgot to share!

In late October we will be sailing east from Miami aboard the Norwegian Sky!  Our trip includes four nights on the ship, with three full-day stops in Freeport, Grand Stirrup Cay and Nassau.  I am still a little apprehensive about cruising, but I chose this route specifically because it allows us to be off the ship for at least 10 hours a day, if we choose to do so, and includes no full days at sea.  I am terribly worried about getting seasick, and figured the option that allowed us as much land time as possible was the best idea!  Although we were in the Bahamas in February, this sailing will allow us to see two new islands and we'll get to spend the day in Nassau doing a few things we didn't have time for before.

Immediately prior to sailing, we will be in Richmond, VA (where I went to college!) for the wedding of a dear college friend and his partner.  We'll fly to Miami on Monday morning, board the ship and enjoy the Caribbean until Friday.  We are debating whether to stay in Miami Friday night or return to Chicago-- while extending vacation is never an unwelcome idea, we are trying to be budget-conscious, so returning to Chicago might be the better idea.

Speaking of budgeting, we got a GREAT deal on the cruise thanks to a lot of price comparisons and bargain hunting.  We spent under $600 for the cruise total, in an oceanview cabin for 4 nights, with all meals included.  We even scored some on-board credits, 2 bottles of wine and a few other freebies that will come in handy!  That shakes out to under $150 a day for lodging and meals-- we would definitely exceed that on our own had we booked a strictly land vacation.  While I know we'll spend some money on at least on excursion and some alcohol, I feel really good about our adventure so far!

This summer will be light on travel for us.  I do plan to go home to Virginia for a week in late July or early August, but beyond that, we'll be staycationing here in Chicago-- enjoying friends, festivals and all the fun this city can offer.  What travel plans do you have for the summer, friends?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

(in)famous words.

One of the best parts about being in a relationship is laughter, and the ability to laugh with someone.  It definitely helps to share the same sense of humor as your mate-- something Jeremy and I have quite in common.

But sometimes instead of laughing with someone, we get to laugh at them.  This, too, is one of the unspoken greatnesses of being in a relationship!

Sometimes, J says things that are... amazing.  Regardless of context, intention or audience, little gems of hilarity occasionally spill forth into the world and are permanently imprinted into our repertoire.  This past weekend blessed us with two such statements:

"How could I possibly poop without my iPod?"

"Where did you see a billboard for 4000 wieners?"

My friend and colleague, Alex, has taken this idea to another level by creating a twitter account for her partner's one-liners.  For now, I'll keep Jeremy's deep thoughts here on my blog... I never know when I'll need to refer back for a good giggle!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

catch me if you can.

When life gets overwhelming, my blogging skills are some of the first to go out the window.  Last night as I was getting in bed, I realized it had been a long time since I sat down to write-- and looking at the archive, it's been almost a month!

The last few weeks have been as busy, if not busier, than expected.  The semester ended quietly for me at work, something I am thankful for.  The second weekend in May, Jeremy and I were both able to travel and spend some time apart.  I went home to Virginia for the first time in five months, and J headed west to Reno for a weekend with bowling friends to the USBC Championships.

My time in Virginia was short, as usual, but well-spent.  I got to spend a lot of time with my precious nephew, who is now talking up a storm.  It was such a treat to see the huge developmental leaps and bounds he's made since Christmas, but also bittersweet-- my little buddy is growing up!

Memorial Day weekend was our turn to travel together-- something I always look forward to, because we get along so perfectly when relaxed and experiencing new things together!  As some of you may know, one of Jeremy's lifelong goals is to visit every major league baseball stadium, a dream I fully support, as it allows us to see a lot of the country (and one day, Toronto!) and to enjoy one of America's great past-times.  In early May, I did my best bargain hunting and surprised J with club level seats and VIP passes to see the Detroit Tigers play the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, May 28.  

On Saturday morning, we headed west, stopping early in our trip to spend a little cash at the outlet mall in Michigan City.  We made it to Detroit around 7pm, dropped our bags in the hotel and hopped in the car again, heading across the border into Canada.  No real reason for the adventure, other than to say I've been to Canada and to test our luck at the Caesar's in Windsor.  We came out a little ahead of the gambling game, had a late night dinner, and then went back to our hotel in the US (not without apprehension, as I have an irrational fear that I am going to be stuck in a foreign country for some strange reason).  

Sunday, we headed downtown to Comerica Park around 11am-- Jeremy likes to fully experience every ballpark, and we generally like to make it early enough for batting practice.  We were in the park by 11:30am and watched some warmups before walking around.  The park was pretty awesome-- very family friendly, including a carousel and ferris wheel!  Our seats were on the club level of the upper deck, right above home plate, giving us a great view of the action.  Unfortunately, it was SO HOT on Sunday that we only lasted about 3 innings in our seats before taking a trip to the Tiger Club, the park's private dining room.  I was lucky to grab a pass for $5 from eBay, and it was well worth it!  We got a table right next to the window and enjoyed the glorious air conditioning and great food (priced just the same as the vendors on the concourses, though I was expecting it to be much more expensive) through the eighth inning.  We spent the last inning walking around, exploring more and eventually seat "squatting" on the 100 level through the end of the game.  All in all, it was a great day at the ballpark and we very much enjoyed the Tigers atmosphere.

Sunday after the game, we explored Detroit's casino scene (sidenote: we're not heavy gamblers, we just like to visit and get whatever freebies we can!) and ordered pizza to our hotel for dinner.  We slept a fantastic 11 hours and woke up refreshed on Monday morning.  We left Detroit around 1:30pm on our way back to Chicago, stopping a few times along the way.  

The coming weeks are already jam packed with lots to do-- J's wisdom tooth extraction, I'm throwing a baby shower for my dear friend Ellen, a wedding, Cubs game, pig roast, first birthday party, and then it's the Fourth of July already, whew.  Time sure does fly when you're having fun, y'all!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

the travel bug.

The travel bug is biting again...

Almost immediately upon arriving back from our February trip to the Bahamas, J and I were vacation dreaming of where and when our next adventure would be.  Thoughts of faraway places swirled through my head-- Mexico, Ireland, Italy, Hawaii.  The biggest obstacle we have to traveling is money.  Finding somewhere we are excited about visiting AND that we can afford is always the kicker.  I even tossed in some more affordable locales like New Orleans, Charleston/Savannah and the Grand Canyon.  Problem is, nothing has so far met my criteria:

  • Affordable 
  • Includes one of the following: meals, excursions or airfare
  • Fits within a 5 night period
  • Has exciting things to do, see and explore
We also are limited to traveling the week of October 23-30.  We are traveling to Virginia October 21 for a wedding and would leave on vacation afterwards, since we'll already be out of state and since we have some airline credits we need to use up.

Right now, I think we are leaning towards a cruise to the Bahamas or Mexico.  We're not super sold on the idea of returning to the Bahamas again, only for the fact that we'd like to see a new place.  However, I'm not going to turn my nose up at the idea of a sunny tropical beach if the alternative is nothing!

Has anyone out there ever cruised before?  Carnival seems to have the most reasonable rates and their ships look pretty fun, but the reviews are hit or miss-- a phrase I've seen repeated is " floating trailer park", which is not exactly the vibe I'm seeking.  Royal Caribbean and Norwegian are our other two options.  We'd like to do a 4-5 day trip, but I could be open to a longer trip if affordable.  

Also, if you've cruised before, any tips for those of us who might turn a little green out on the blue sea?  I didn't get sick in the Bahamas, but I mainly closed my eyes and sat very still on our boat trips.  I won't have that option for a straight week, obviously, and don't want to spend the entire trip zapped out on Dramamine, either!

Friday, April 29, 2011

the blog is back in town.

April is finally starting to come to a close, and with it, the majority of our largest events on campus are finishing up.  I have to say, while April is always stressful here, having two energized, motivated and team-oriented staff members made it feel like a breeze in comparison to years past.

Just as we descend the peak at work, the summer social scene starts to heat up for me and J.  Here's what we've got to look forward to in the next two months, so far:
  • May 1: Sunday BBQ with friends
  • May 7: Jeremy's Godson's First Communion
  • May 8: Baseball game @ US Cellular Field
  • May 12-16: Erin home to Virginia, Jeremy to Reno for USBC
  • May 19: White Sox game (staff outing with our beaus!)
  • May 20: J gets his wisdom teeth removed
  • May 24: Cubs game
  • June 18: Wedding
  • June 19: Cubs game (vs Yankees!)
I think that leaves us 2 or 3 weekends unscheduled right now, but I also know there will be a birthday party thrown in there somewhere, as well as some family time with J's dad.  I also can't forget to mention that J's football season starts up at the end of June, thereby sucking away every Saturday from our time together.  Practice is already going on every Tuesday and Thursday, as well as bowling on Fridays.  That means we see each other twice a week and on weekends.  If we didn't live together, I'm not really sure when we'd get together anymore!

Any tips for balancing busy couples schedules?  I try not to get upset over our reduced time together, but the truth is that it's hard to go from seeing each other all the time to 4 times a week.  Add into that the fact that we are both often stressed out, cranky or just plain tired when we are home together, and it can seem like forever some months before we have a really good day together.  How do you squeeze the most out of your time together to make it more meaningful?

Monday, April 18, 2011

true to title.

In my line of work, August-September and March-April are my busiest times of the year.  This year has been no exception-- I've been out of my mind busy for the last few weeks.  Last week alone, there were three after-work banquets and a major weekend event.  I'm grateful to have such a supportive and competent staff-- everything went off without a hitch!

Things really start to slow down around here in another week or so.  I can't promise I'll be updating again regularly until we hit our downturn, but in the meantime, here's a picture of my staff and our significant others from this weekend's formal event!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

agony of defeat.

VCU's run in the NCAA tournament came to an abrupt ending on Saturday night.  After playing some extremely impressive basketball over the last few weeks, the Butler game was a complete meltdown.  Whether due to fatigue, biased refs or simple bad luck, the road ended.

The Final Four party was a success-- about 20 Chicagoland VCU alumni showed up, and about 8 of my friends.  Everyone enjoyed snacks, pizza and the drink special.  I even got to see one of my favorite people from my time working in the Student Commons at VCU, what a treat!

Opening Day at Wrigley Field was also Friday.  This marks my third year of attending the home opener (obviously, a Jeremy-driven activity!), and the weather was typical-- cold and rainy!  Temperatures in the 40s all day with a steady drizzle.  Adding to the dreary mood was the fact that Jeremy wasn't feeling well and the Cubs lost.  Booooo!

The rest of our weekend was consumed with sleeping and laundry.  We slept for 11 hours on Saturday night-- which felt amazing!  I wish I had that chance more often, especially in preparation for the next few weeks at work.

Speaking of, I'm completely overwhelmed right now.  April is always our busiest time, and this year seems even more stressful than ever.  I'm trying to take it one day at a time, but that's hard when every day is jam-packed, including the weekends!  After the end of April, though, things significantly calm down.  I'm soooo looking forward to that day.

Jeremy has football practice tonight, so I will be home alone.  I really struggle to be alone sometimes-- not that it isn't relaxing, but I'm just so bored by myself!  I'm also an extremely light sleeper, so I tend to stay up until J gets home, which is sometimes almost midnight.  It's a vicious cycle-- I look forward to him coming home, and then I get mad that I'm up late and am subsequently tired and cranky the next day.  It is a good exercise for me, though, because I do need to understand everything doesn't work around my schedule all the time.  I also am admittedly jealous that J has hobbies and friends here in Chicago, something I lack.  It's hard to have a partner who lives in their hometown-- all his close friends and family are always nearby, but mine are 1000 miles away.  I look forward to the day when we are on more even territory!

Thursday, March 31, 2011


VCU's RAMpage of the NCAA Tournament has led to much discussion and some pretty hilarious commentary. In the spirit of fun, I present...

The two best VCU shirts to result from March Madness 2011.



Tuesday, March 29, 2011

shameless promotion.

Just a reminder, the VCU Final Four Chicago watch party is this Saturday, April 2 at 5pm!

All alumni and Rams fans in the Chicago area are welcome-- do me a favor and RSVP online before Friday at 5pm so I can get an accurate count to Wrightwood Tap.

RSVP online here.  Also, check out the VCU Final Four parties being hosted around the country.  RAM NATION!

Monday, March 28, 2011

watch party!

In the spirit of cheering on my alma mater, I'm hosting a Final Four watch party this Saturday.  If you live in Chicago or nearby and want to join, all are welcome!

VCU Rams vs. Butler Bulldogs Final Four Watch Party
Saturday, April 2, 2011 @ 5pm
Wrightwood Tap
1059 W. Wrightwood Ave
Chicago IL  60614
3 hour open bar (5-8pm): $15 pp

Wear your best black and gold and bring a snack to share!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

mess with the the RAMS...

And you get the horns!

Congratulations to the VCU Rams on beating (the crap out of) the Kansas Jayhawks today!  We are now en route to our first ever Final Four appearance and it feels AMAZING!


Friday, March 25, 2011

friday favorites.

Today's Friday Favorites will be short and sweet, mainly for the fact that I'm in the middle of a 12 hour work day that ends at midnight.  My students love to over-program the end of the semester, so the next six weeks are pretty jam packed!

  • Tungle - My aforementioned jam packed April-May schedule has me pulling my hair out some days.  Since I work in an office that focuses on student programs and events, I'm often not sitting at my desk, waiting for someone to walk in and ask me a question.  This can be frustrating to students, so I try to communicate my availability as well as possible.  Tungle has been a great addition to our office's scheduling structure-- it automatically updates from my Google and Outlook calendars and shows students when I'm available.  It even lets them propose meeting times when I'm free.  Accounts are free and easy to use!
  • Football Fanatics - Don't let the name fool you-- this online store has TONS of great NCAA, NFL, MLB and NHL merchandise.  I've ordered from them several times (including the spiffy new VCU shirt I'm sporting today) and the 3-day shipping for $4.99 has been a lifesaver.  The best part is that the $4.99 shipping is a flat rate-- you can order as many things as you want and just pay $4.99 for the entire order's shipping!

Ok, with that, I'm off.  Grabbing some dinner before setting up for tonight's madness.  Think good thoughts as I try to stay awake until mindight!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

crafty for a cause.

I am a terrible arts and crafts person.  I am a perfectionist in most parts of my life, but crafts are an area where I just do not have the patience.  I was always jealous growing up of my mother and sister (Pam at The Finder's Keeper), who both have amazing artistic talents... the furthest mine ever went was the occasional watercolor painting or doodle.  Artistry around me seems to abound-- my best friend, Meena Khalili Clifford, is also an amazingly talented illustrator and designer, to the point that she's already a professor in the field at age 29, and my friend Ellen is well-known around these parts for her Crafturday parties!

Anyway, I was approached at work today about a really cool project to help raise funds for Japan in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami.  Students Rebuild and Architecture for Humanity are sponsoring a paper crane project; every paper crane you make and send to them will result in a $2 donation to rebuilding the nation.

If you are crafty and/or possess paper folding skills, please consider contributing.  And if you do contribute, please fold a crane or two for me... for dear readers, I do not joke when I say my crafting skills are poor.

You see... my boss, Katie, and I attempted paper peace cranes last year.  You will notice neither is peaceful, nor a crane.  Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

dancing days are here again.

As mentioned in my previous post, I went to college at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA (along with my fabulous friend, Amy over @ Sam I Am).  I graduated in 2003, right around the time VCU Basketball started getting hot-- they made their first NCAA tournament appearance in almost 10 years in 2004. Even though sports weren't a big deal on campus, I attended many a basketball game at the Siegel Center during my undergraduate years.  I rarely turn down a cheap event, and as students, admission was always free!

Anyway, fast forward through the next 7 years, and VCU has made three other NCAA tournament fields, including the famed 2007 thumping of powerhouse Duke University in the first round-- Duke's only first round loss since 1996.  Basketball has progressively gotten better and better, and VCU's school spirit has exponentially improved since I graduated.  It's a really cool thing to see as an alumni and supporter!

So now, here's the thing: VCU had a crappy February 2011.  They lost the Colonial Athletic Association tournament and finished out of the top 2 spots in the regular season.  And according to NCAA history, the CAA has never been given more than one bid to the big dance.  Things changed this season, though: the selection committee saw some merit in VCU and gave the CAA three bids for the first time ever.  This year, VCU was given one of those crazy new spots in the NCAA tournament that required a play-in game, despite being an 11th seed.  Critcism was rampant among sports writers and critics; the most infamous words coming from ESPN analyst Jay Bilas:

"I’ve seen UAB play. I’ve seen VCU play... All of the teams on the ‘snub list’ should have gotten in before those two. All of them. There’s a reason none of us brought up UAB and VCU as having a chance to get in — and it’s because they had no chance to get in. The committee has gone against their own principles."

In true underdog style, you can imagine how things have unfolded.  VCU beat USC 59-46 in the first round, winning a trip to the second round in Chicago, IL.  My excitement level was at about 110% when I realized this.
Seeing the opportunity to watch my alma mater play in the NCAA tournament was an offer I couldn't refuse.  The alumni association was offering tickets at a fair rate, so I purchased two seats for Jeremy and I.  The first game was Friday night; I headed to the United Center after work and picked up our tickets-- happily discovering they were prime seats: Section 113, and just about 15 rows off the floor!

As you may already know, VCU pounded Georgetown by a margin of 74-56.  It was a great game, but a little uneventful since the Rams absolutely dominated the entire time!  The win meant we also were automatically granted tickets for the next round's game on Sunday.  

We were rewarded in Round 3 with another victory-- VCU slammed Purdue (in a stadium FULL of Purdue fans, I might add), by a margin of 94-76.  It was an amazing feeling, because we witnessed history!  Sunday's win allowed VCU into their first-ever Sweet Sixteen.  For a team that "didn't deserve" to be in the tournament, we sure are shutting up all the critics at a rapid rate!

What team are you rooting for this March Madness?  I'm VCU all the way!  The only sad thing is that the next game, against Florida State, is being held on Friday night at 9pm CST... and I have to work on Friday night for a special event until midnight!  So, be sure to tune in to the game, cheer on the Rams and yell loud for me!

Monday, March 21, 2011

absence makes the heart grow fonder.

That was a much longer than anticipated blog break!  The last two weeks have been a bear, y'all.  What have I been up to?  In no particular order...

  • Work
  • Attempting to spend time with J
  • Attempting to not fight with J about our limited time together
  • Conference travel
  • NCAA March Madness
  • WORK
  • NCAA March Madness
  • Errands
  • Sleep
I spent 5 days in Philadelphia last week for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators annual conference.  I work with student organizations, student development and event planning at a small, private college in Chicago, IL.  NASPA's annual meeting is a huge gathering of people who work at colleges and universities outside of the classroom-- in areas like student activities, Greek life, counseling, judicial affairs and so on.  I look forward to the conference every year; it's a great way to reconnect and energize about what I do.

The conference itself was fairly good, save for a few timing snafus and sessions that weren't exactly what I expected.  It was fun to be out of the office and meeting like-minded professionals for a few days. Philadelphia, however, was... a huge disappointment.  I had high hopes for the city, as I do for most places on the east coast.  I was sadly mistaken.  From our first cab ride, to hotel check-in, to restaurants and everything in between, we were largely met with loud, rude people.  The area surrounding our hotel and conference center went from ok to sketchy in a matter of blocks, making getting around in the evenings without a vehicle nearly impossible.  We spent most of our time in the conference events and at the few chain restaurants within walking distance.

Our last day in Philly, we did get to venture out and explore the city a bit more.  I had my first official Philly Cheesesteak (at Jim's) and we toured Old City.  Here are just a few pictures from our afternoon...

I returned to Chicago on St. Patrick's Day afternoon, headed home to change and then out for the evening.  In our old age, however, we only managed to stay out until 11pm!  It was nice to see Jeremy after 5 days apart and nice to be back in my city!

Tomorrow's update: March Madness!  You see, I am a proud alumni of a little school named Virginia Commonwealth University, aka VCU.  Possibly also aka that team that totally screwed up your bracket.  VCU is making an appearance in our first-ever Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.  The cool thing about all this?  I WAS THERE TO WITNESS HISTORY!  One of the second and third round tournament sites was sweet home Chicago, and I lucked out that VCU played two games in town!  I'll post pictures and stories tomorrow... for now, though, GO RAMS, GO!!! 

Friday, March 11, 2011

flip, flip, flipadelphia!

I'm flying out to Philadelphia on Sunday for 5 days. I'll be attending the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Annual Conference-- the yearly professional development meeting for people who work in Student Affairs. I always enjoy getting to conferences as a means to re-energize myself and gather some new ideas for making my work life easier!

Although I lived on the east coast my whole life and have visited New York City an infinite amount of times, I've never actually been to Philly! Any suggestions for places to eat, things to do or see? We've got a cheesesteak taste-off planned, as well as a map of historic sites to visit. But, do you know of any outside the box places that a first-timer like myself should try? We'll have a bit of free time on Wednesday afternoon to do most of our exploring, as well as some evening time on Monday and Tuesday.

In the least, maybe I can find Paddy's Pub and grab some milk steak with the gang from It's Always Sunny...

day 5: there's no place like home.

We woke up early on our last day in Cable Beach. Our flight was around 2pm, but we had to check out by 11am and wanted to be at the airport in plenty of time to navigate through security and immigration, as well as grab some lunch.

Jeremy wanted to get right to packing up, but I persuaded him to take one last quick trip down to the beach-- after all, when would we be able to enjoy a few minutes of relaxation on a powder-sand beach again? Probably not anytime soon! So, we got dressed and walked down to the beach and took a quick dip in the heated pool. It was a nice way to start the day, and a good way to calm ourselves before setting off on our whirlwind trip back to the states!

After our swim, we headed back to the room and got to the business of packing and cleaning up. Surprisingly, it didn't take too long-- I'm always worried about packing to come home, because things just never seem to fit the way they did on the way in!

We checked out right at 11, hopped in a cab and made it to the airport around 11:30am. We were pleased to find out that in Nassau, you actually go through a TSA screening and US Customs on site, instead of when you actually land in the US. The process was way less-stressful than I thought!

We had a smooth flight from Nassau to Philadelphia, but hit a few snags once on the ground. We decided to grab dinner while on our layover, which turned out to be a bad idea. We ordered cheesesteaks from Chickies & Ruths and thought we'd have a simple go of it. WRONG. Our simple order (literally, two cheesesteaks, thats it) took THIRTY SEVEN minutes. The staff was very sassy and unapologetic... not a good intro to the City of Brotherly Love! Once we finally got our sandwiches, we headed over to out gate for boarding... just in time to catch an announcement that our flight was being delayed. Apparently, there was a security breach on our list-- someone attempting to board presented conflicting ID, somehow was matched with the No Fly List, and ended up causing a BIG headache. The individual in question was pulled out of line and questioned by probably 12 people, ranging from Philadelphia PD to TSA to an Air Marshall. Yikes!

The delay finally got us on board about 45 minutes late. The fun didn't stop there, though. Due to our lateness, when we finally taxied out for takeoff, we got caught in some traffic. Meaning, we were 25th in line! By the time we had wheels up, we were 90 minutes late.

We ended up at O'Hare around 9pm and got home about 10pm. While it was nice to sleep in our own bed, I definitely missed pretty much everything about vacation! It was hard to believe we woke up in a different country and were back in our own home in the span of 14 hours. Hard to believe, and quite a bit sad!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

day 4: island dreaming.

Our shuttle to the dock for our Powerboat Adventure to the Exuma Cays was supposed to arrive at 8am on Monday.  We were downstairs at the (twice confirmed) entrance for pickup at 7:45.  By 8:10, I started to get nervous.  I asked the bellman and he assured me the shuttle only picked up at our entrance and not to worry.

He was wrong.

At 8:20, he sheepishly approached us after getting off the phone with someone.  "The shuttle came 8 minutes ago to the upstairs entrance."

Instant tears.  I had been looking forward to this excursion for a long time, and I had a bad feeling that morning that something was wrong.  I hate it when I'm right in those situations!

Anyway, I called the travel company and they apologized and said they'd figure out what was going on.  About 15 minutes later, our bus arrived.  Apparently, the driver had forgotten two other couples further down the beach from us, too!

We ended up getting to the dock about 45 minutes late, but at least we made it!  We boarded the powerboat for an hour trip to the Exuma Cays-- specifically Allan's Cay and Ship Channel Cay.  I managed to curtail my seasickness by keeping my eyes closed and drinking lots of water when the seas were rough!

Allan's Cay was first up, where we were greeted with LOTS of hungry iguanas. Jason, one of our guides, gave us fistfuls of grapes and told us to have at it.  We stuck our grapes on the ends of some sticks to feed the iguanas-- they have sharp little teeth that you definitely don't want to nip your fingers!

Allan's Cay was also home to the most gorgeous water I saw while in the islands.  Perfect for a couples shot!

A short 10 minute ride away was our home for the day, Ship Channel Cay.  Our day long experience included all you could drink and eat, a pretty amazing package for poor folks like us!  Our first activity was watching Jason clean some grouper, which would later become lunch for us AND for the sharks and stingrays.  After that was done, it was animal adventure time.  

Stingrays were first, and I was terrified.  I'm not the most adventuresome person, and I have pretty bad luck.  I was convinced I was going to meet my end Steve Irwin style, so I was pretty skittish around these guys.  I did pet one a few times and managed to feed one before I hopped out of the water for awhile!  Jeremy, though, has no fear and loved the whole thing!  

After the rays came the sharks, which we weren't allowed to feed for safety reasons.  Although these were "small" sharks (lemon, nurse and reef), they were anywhere from 4-7 feet in length.  Plenty big for me!

After the shark excitement, we headed out for a short snorkeling adventure (yes, make the sharks angry and hungry and THEN go snorkeling).  Jeremy had never been before and I'd never tried it outside of a pool, so it was cool to experience!

All of our morning activity was rewarded with a huge lunch of steak, grouper, pasta, salad, veggies and fruit... with the best view ever!

After lunch, we lounged on the beach, swam and napped in the sun.  Our boat ride back got us to shore around 5pm and our bus dropped us at 6pm.  We were both fairly exhausted but decided to head out for one last meal to Arawak Cay, a popular local restaurant row.  Sadly, this was the most disappointing part of our trip-- the food was mediocre, the service was terrible, the staff rude and the prices were outrageous.  To add insult to injury the cashier argued with us about what we ordered and ended up charging us an extra $8.  It was a poor ending to a great day!  We actually were in bed by 830pm on Tuesday-- all the excitement of our trip and the anticipation of traveling home the next day was definitely weighing on us!

Monday, March 7, 2011

day 3: relaxation station.

We got to sleep in a little on our second full day in Cable Beach, since it was the only day we didn't have a scheduled excursion.  We still ended up getting out of the room and to the pool by about 10:30am, though!  We grabbed breakfast from Starbucks and headed right for the pool, early enough to get two prime seats by the bar and water's edge.

By noon, I could feel that my SPF 30 wasn't doing too much for my pale Scotch-Irish skin, so we decided to venture out for lunch.  We hopped across the street and grabbed a burger from a vendor and a few daiquiris from the Daiquiri Shack.  The Shack was amazing-- every drink was made to order with fresh fruit of your choice.  Drinks only consisted of fruit, cane syrup and rum.  For $6, they were definitely the best drinks on the beach!

After a few more hours on the beach in the shade of umbrellas, we headed inside to shower and decided to catch a jitney (bus) to downtown Nassau.  We arrived downtown around 4:30pm, when most locals were heading home for the day.  We spent about 2 hours walking around and souvenir shopping... didn't buy a whole lot because everything in the Bahamas is EXPENSIVE, folks!  Bottle of sunscreen = $20.  

We'd heard much ado about Senor Frog's, a spot especially popular with spring breakers, which made me hesitant to try it.  However, it turned out to be a great choice!  The restaurant was open-air, right on the beach and cruise terminal.  We spent our dinner marveling at the ginourmous Disney Dream ship in port.

While the food at Senor Frog's wasn't amazing, the drinks and atmosphere were!  We enjoyed a few margaritas, a congo line with free shots, karaoke and a few silly contests.  Our waiters were definitely the friendliest folks we met on the island and treated us well.  


After dinner, we hailed a cab back to the Wyndham.  It was a beautiful night, so we decided to spend some time in the hot tub and heated pool.  After two hours and 20 wrinkly fingers, we headed back to our room for some rest.  We needed lots of rest to prepare for Monday's excursion to the Exuma Cays!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

day 2: just keep swimming.

Our dolphin trip was scheduled to leave the resort at 9:30am on Sunday, so we got up around 8am to wake up, shower and grab breakfast.  We took a little shuttle bus for the 6 mile trip to the ferry where our boat was departing, which gave us our first look at downtown Nassau, including the straw market and cruise ship terminals.  After checking in at the dock, we received wristbands for the trip and climbed aboard a double-decker boat.  It was a gorgeously sunny morning, and the 25 minute boat trip to Blue Lagoon Island was just the way to wake up for the day!

We arrived on the island around 10:30am and were immediately greeted by our trainers for our swim session.  We listed to a little presentation about dolphins and the island first, and then headed down to a floating dock for our program.  I was so excited I could hardly stand it-- I've always loved dolphins and I was beyond thrilled to have the opportunity for the swim!

Each participant was divided into groups of 10.  When you weren't in the water, you got to watch the other groups and enjoy the sun.  We were in the second group for our session, so we got to see what we'd be doing first, and then we hopped into the water to meet Salvatore, our dolphin friend for the day.

Our swim consisted of a few things: a dance, a kiss, a hug, a back and belly pet and a photo session.  Readers, it was seriously the coolest 30 minutes of my life.  I'm VERY glad we invested in a waterproof digital camera for the trip-- I was able to get some great candid pictures of us in the water!

Jeremy dancing with his new pal!

Dolphin kisses... fishy!

After our swim, we ventured around the island for a bit before lunch.  We visited with the sea lions, watched some baby dolphins being trained, played in the touch tank and took in some gorgeous island views.  By 1pm, we were starving, so we grabbed lunch and then laid on the beach and in hammocks while it digested. 

After we rested, we rented a water bike for 30 minutes and took a spun around the lagoon-- so fun!  

Pedal faster!

We ended our day on Blue Lagoon Island fulfilling one of Jeremy's country music lyric dreams...

I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand
Not a worry in the world, a cold beer (or, pina colada) in my hand
Life is good today, life is good today.

We headed back to Nassau around 4:30pm.  After arriving at the hotel, we went for a dip in the pool at sunset and then decided to try the Sheraton's Bimini Market for dinner.  We dined on the outdoor terrace and enjoyed the sea breeze and moonlight as we ate.  It was the most perfect first day of vacation I've ever had.