How to get involved in the res halls

While I and the rest of the student staff members have been moved into our room for a couple of weeks now, freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior residents are starting to move in. I don’t have any of my own residents this year, but I am living on the same floor as I did my last year. Five of my residents from last year are living in their same rooms again, too, which is really awesome. While I most likely will never know whether or not I had an impact on those residents’ decision to return to campus housing, I do know that I always tried to let all of my residents know about the many, many ways to get involved on campus, especially in campus housing. There are a lot of options, and they can truly change your college experience. If I had never gotten involved with all of the things I did here at UIC, I would be pretty unhappy person and would feel really lonely and unattached to the university. But because I joined as much as I could, I feel very committed to UIC, I enjoy what I’m doing every step of the way, and I have made some incredible friends.

Although every resident’s RA or Peer Mentor will urge them to get involved and truly become a part of campus housing, I am not necessarily saying this as a resident assistant this time, but as a resident- get involved! Now is the time and certainly the place. What better way to get the most out of college? Here are my tips to get involved within UIC Campus Housing:

1. Attend the New Student Days Events. This events are a great way to get oriented with the city of Chicago. You get to experience some really cool things at a discounted price. Other freshmen attend, providing you with an opportunity to get to know others, and the chaperones (RAs/PMs/supervisors) know all about how you can get even more involved. If the ticketed events are already signed up for, there are a ton of free ones you can check out. I don’t recommend missing these.

2. Get to know your clustermates/roommate/floormates. You’re going to be living with these people for the entire year. It’s ridiculous to ignore them or never get to know them, and think about how fantastic it would be if you became friends. Make a point to introduce yourself to them and to get to know them as well. Try inviting them to lunch in the cafeteria or to a Target run. They could wind up being your first friends here.

3. Go to programs. There are actually about 3 million programs planned for you in the first few weeks. Ok, not actually, but the point is there is a lot to do, and all of it is for you! Take advantage of this and attend everything that even remotely interests you…especially because once the school year starts, you won’t be able to go to as many programs because of homework and responsibilities. This is another great way to make friends, have a good time, and hear from staff members about other things you can do to get more involved.

4. Go to RHA. The Residence Hall Association is a great way to be a part of Campus Housing and your residence hall. If you live in housing, you are automatically considered to be a general assembly member. The meetings are every Wednesday at 7pm, and the first one is the first Wednesday of the school year. There are always awesome raffles and, frequently, discounted student tickets to events like Broadway plays or sports. Their meetings usually have a useful topic/guest speaker/program. Plus, you’ll get the latest updates before residents who don’t come to the meetings!

5. Look at posters on the walls & check your email. Pay attention to signage, whether its papers on the walls, emails in your inbox, or postings on social media. Either way, there is a lot of great stuff going on around housing, and you don’t want to become poster blind (stop seeing them and get acclimated to their presence) or one of those people who immediately deletes emails before checking their contents. All of these things are a way of contacting you and getting your attention to notify you of something that may potentially interest you. Get into and stay in the habit of looking at these things and knowing what is going on.

6. Join an executive board. There is a lot going on in housing, and thanks to hall councils (sort of like student councils for college and specifically pertaining to the residence halls), you are able to apply to be on an executive board almost immediately after you move in. This causes instant-friendships, a strong knowledge of how things work in housing, and experience for any other positions you may care to take on in the future.

7. Ask your RA/PM for other ideas on how to get involved. Beyond everything I’ve mentioned, there are even more ways to get involved and feel at home. Your RA/PM have a wealth of knowledge of things you can do and ways in which you can do it. Go ahead and ask them-they would love to have that conversation and get you linked up to the right people/place/etc. It’s one of the things they are here for!

Don’t waste this precious time you have in college-try to fill it with as much as possible that would still keep you sane. Find what you enjoy and run with it. There’s at least one thing here for everyone…it’s just a matter of figuring out what that thing or those things are for you on an individual level. Good luck!

Adventures in babysitting: The finale

Bye bye summer.  Isn’t that the most depressing phrase ever uttered? Today is my first day of student teaching…without the actual teaching part.  The children don’t come to school until next week.  This week we are basically starting from the ground up.  Our classroom has walls…and that’s about it.  The school that my teacher was at previously was where I thought we would be.  In the spring, we both found out her room would be moved to another school.  Apparently, they are redoing the big art room to accommodate our special ed preschool room.  It isn’t done yet. It might be nice to have a blank slate to start a brand new classroom.  We’re just hoping we can pull off a miracle before the children do show up.

School starting also means no more nannying, at least full time.  I was able to arrange a couple days babysitting after school.  Even though these boys drive me UTTERLY INSANE, I think I’d miss them if last week was the last time I’d ever see them. For our last long day together, I had the whole day planned.  I took them to Oz Park.  It’s a park in Lincoln park that my parents used to take me when I was little.  It has the most amazing playground made all of wood.  It’s huge and it was just as amazing as I remembered it being.  There are little nooks and crannies that kids can crawl through, and deemed to be a bit small for me this visit.  The boys had a great time and really enjoyed exploring a park they had never been to before.  I also put together my last scavenger hunt.  I put clues all over the house and candy at the very end.  They (the mom and dad) gave me a bottle of champagne to celebrate my new adventure and the boys all made me cards. My favorite was “Thanks for all the babysitting, Lauren.”  The day was great and it was such a nice way to end a hectic summer.

It is also the end of my 17 day diet: cycle 1.  I lost a little over 5 lbs (which was less than I set my goal for).  But I do feel better and that’s all that matters.  I am starting cycle 2 today.  Should be a bit easier because the list of what is allowed gets much longer.  Still no junk food.  No soda.  And I’ll only have wine like ONCE (or twice) a week.  Veggies. Fruits. Proteins.  I think my favorite part will be being able to eat shellfish again.  MMMmmm shrimp!! And I’m to increase my workout regimen from….pretty much nothing to riding my bike everyday.

This week begins a brand new chapter for me and I couldn’t be more excited.  Wish me luck!!

You got me wrapped around your leash

♪♫♪ Tracing patterns across a personal map / And making pictures where the lines overlap, where the lines overlap…

Sometime earlier in the summer, I spent two Saturdays at PAWS Chicago’s Adoption Center for volunteer training and subsequent Kitty City and Dog Town training. For those of you who don’t know, PAWS is the largest no-kill shelter in the city, and its adoption center is located on Clybourne and Racine. Ever since high school, I’ve wanted to volunteer at an animal shelter, but I’ve never seem to found the time or the opportunity. Also, I had my own dog to take care of in high school, and I always felt busy enough with school and activities as it was. My dog, a Pomeranian named Zephyr, was also diabetic. This meant that he needed insulin shots twice a day with both of his meals, and usually it was either my mother or me giving him his shots. At first when he was diagnosed several years ago, I was nervous at giving him the shot, and I remember his twitch of pain when I was accidentally too rough due to my fear of hurting him – which of course would make the shot hurt more. But gradually, I became more adept at painlessly slipping the needle in and out for his insulin by coaxing him into behaving with his food. Eventually it became easier to maintain his diabetes by watching his food intake and walking him every day for a good amount of time.

I loved Zephyr with my whole heart, and I’ve never been so heartbroken in my life than I was when he died a little over a year ago. It was the second half of my freshmen year, and my mother was actually in Taiwan at the time. I know she was deeply saddened as well since she had no idea leaving for Taiwan would be the last time she would be able to see him. And with my brother and me both at college now, Zephyr was her constant companion at home when my father worked late nights. I remember my entire family was deeply impacted by his passing, and we all grieved together. I know a lot of people just see it as a pet dying, but I felt like I lost a sibling. Zephyr had been with use for over ten years and I had spent the better half of my childhood with him making memories and having a best friend always there for me. I think anyone who has loved their pet deeply would understand the hole that is left behind once he or she is lost. It took a long time to feel normal again, but slowly I came to terms with my grief, realizing I gave him all the love I had and the best life possible. I still keep my favorite picture of him taped over my bed that travels with me every year when I move to a new place.

This past year, my interest was peaked in PAWS because I heard from a friend of mine that the volunteer process was super simple and that they’re always looking for new help. Their volunteer base is enormous because they’re always trying to dedicate more money to medication, care, surgeries, neutering, and other materials for the animals. It’s really inspirational to see how dedicated some of the volunteers are to spending so much of their personal time outside of their regular jobs to be there just out of their love for animals. They’re also the ones who hold the training sessions, so after just going there for two of the mandatory sessions, I knew that I wanted to be involved too.

Last week, I had my first day at volunteering. I chose to do Dog Town because of course I’m much more comfortable with dogs after having had one myself for many years. Although I completed the training for Kitty City, I think I’ll save that for a little bit later until I’m more confident on what I’m doing. Also it seems like from the emails that Dog Town requires more frequent help because of all the walking that needs to happen! Because of my class and work schedule, I chose a Saturday morning shift. It was actually the first shift of the day at 8 AM, and it’s the prime time for all the busiest work to begin – washing the rooms (no cages! all the dogs get their own rooms. It’s very nice and comfortable!), feeding the dogs, letting them out to walk and do their business, washing dishes after meals, and doing laundry. The volunteers are split into levels, and I was of course a Level One Volunteer. Since it was my first time, I was paired with a Level Two Volunteer, Erica, who showed me the ropes of feeding and walking. Erica, who has both fostered and adopted dogs from PAWS before, was extremely friendly in showing me what to do and I quickly felt very involved and comfortable in my work. For three hours, we walked several dogs (some more than once!), fed them, and helped clean out the rooms. The most difficult task was probably feeding the dogs who needed to take medication. Many of them are very picky and clever eaters, eating around their pills or spitting them out after eating their favorite parts. It took a lot of coaxing and tries to finally get some of them to eat the pill!

This is Lassie, one of the pups I walked. He's only 4 months old. I love his nose!

It was wonderful to be able to walk the dogs. Walking Zephyr used to be my clockwork routine after I came home from school from elementary school through high school, and it was always a meaningful time for me to spend with him because I felt like decompressing from the day. I hadn’t walked many dogs since he passed, and on that Saturday I had the chance to walk dogs for hours. Erica and I always went together, and the Level One dogs were always well-behaved and I had no problems making the two circle route around the Adoption Center. That’s not to say that the Level Two or Three dogs are not behaved – Erica handled them fine – they’re just more prone to pulling or being excited at seeing other dogs or people. I remember Zephyr was the same way, particularly toward big dogs! There’s a good rule they have where it’s one dog/puppy per volunteer to make sure no one loses control, but even so, the puppies that Erica and I walked still had a knack to get their leashes tangled up around our legs and with each other, especially if they saw cyclists or pedestrians that they wanted to sniff or investigate. I could certainly say there wasn’t a single dull moment!

It was so lovely to be surrounded by animals and other animal-lovers – and it was only my first time volunteering there! I can’t wait to go back again, and I hope to make it a regular habit to spend some time there. I’ve really missed just being around animals, and I think this could be the perfect way to spend some time for others and myself at the same time.

And now I’ve got a feeling if I sang this loud enough / You would sing it back to me, you would sing it back to me ♪♫♪

(Where The Lines Overlap - Paramore)

Favorite parts of summer

My summer is officially over, which is really upsetting. But I am happy to get my final year started and get on the road toward graduating. I’ve made a lot of awesome memories these past three months…

Even though I was originally reluctant about the idea of going, traveling to St. Louis for a few days was my favorite memory of the summer. Kevin and I had such a great time on our first vacation together, and I’ll never forget the trip. I’m ready for another vacation already!

I’ve had so much fun with Bear all summer; between walks and playing, I don’t know what I’m going to do without him every day at school. My favorite thing we’ve done this summer is swim. I don’t have a picture of him doing it, but he’s such a great swimmer, and he loves it! Who would’ve thought that a little sheltie would be so into swimming? It’s so cute to see how excited he gets when we open the gate by the pool. He knows it’s time for him to get in, and he freaks out.

I know I talk about my internship all the time…I do realize it. But I had such a great experience and already miss going in to the office and finding out what the day holds. I really enjoyed going in to work in the morning…don’t think many people say that…

I also got to spend two nights in the emergency room for my internship. We had different reporters and videographers from the media come out to witness our level I trauma center. Staying overnight and seeing the doctors and nurses work under such pressure was incredible. The teamwork there is unlike anything I have ever seen. I’m so glad I got to witness this.

A final thing about my internship-getting to see stories I wrote on Advocate’s health enews website and seeing my stories picked up by the media. This made me feel really successful and like I did something that transcends my time at my internship. It’s like I really made a mark. Very gratifying.

Ice cream! Need I say more? I made sure to eat as much ice cream as possible this summer. I’m pretty sure that was a great choice.

I spent a lot of time trying out new recipes on my family this summer. I’d say I’ll miss it, but I plan on taking advantage of Kevin’s kitchen in his room this school year. Don’t ask why I never took a real picture (snapchat only) of anything I cooked…I swear it happened!

Although it wasn’t hot very often this summer, I managed to get a fair amount of time in the sun. Laying out and enjoying the rays made this summer great. In my case, the darkness of my tan directly correlates to the level of satisfaction I have with my summer.

I had a great time riding my new bike through the woods on an almost nonexistent trail. It was a great workout and a little bit too outdoorsy for me, but I really did enjoy it. My bike rides through the city won’t be anything like that.

Back in June, we went to Arlington Race Track for what was my first time. It was so much fun experiencing the horse races and betting on them. I didn’t win very often, but I’m still very proud about my $8 win!

I had a really fun and short summer. I hope this last year at UIC is just as great!

It’s crunch time

I don’t mean stomach crunches.  It’s time I buckle down my budget.  My piggy bank is on a diet, too.  I have worked tirelessly this summer to save up for a very (and I mean VERY) low income fall.  Student teaching is a full time UNPAID job.  The bright side is I saved some money (with the exception of some concerts-a girl has to have a little summer fun!).  But these next two weeks are the last of a nice paycheck.  Sigh.

Everyone who knows me, knows that I can be a bit of a worry wart.  I plan almost everything, and it’s very hard for me to let go and “see what comes my way.”  With the money I’ve saved and the extra from my student loans, I should be ok with the bills I have to pay for 15 weeks. It’s just the spending money I won’t have much of. SIGH.

Oh! And that whole not having a job thing.  Talk about stress.  Once student teaching is over, I am going to look for jobs like it’s my job.  It WILL be my job.  And hopefully, HOPEFULLY I stumble upon something that is available mid-year.  If not, I can be a substitute teacher for the meantime.  Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me!!

17 Day Diet Update: As I write this, I am 10 days into the 17 day diet.  I have lost more than 5 lbs.  (I need to get a digital scale.  My analog scale doesn’t really work that well).  Wednesday, August 13th will be my last day.  And my boyfriend and I decided our first dinner out will be to…drumroll please…..Pizzeria Due!  I can’t wait to have a BIG, SLICE OF CHICAGO DEEP DISH PIZZA.

Honestly though, the biggest differences on this diet is how much better I feel.  My stomach feels smaller, I eat less, I have more energy (without drinking coffee), drinking tons of water a day is super easy, I sleep better, and I can see my body changing.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going back on what I said about body image in a previous blog.  I am doing this for my body, to get my organs working clean without a lot of toxins, getting my metabolism up, decreasing the amount I need to eat to feel full, and lastly to train myself on moderation.  That’s how you can eat what you want and still feel and look good.  Then after I get my pizza fix, I’ll continue on to the next cycle of the diet which allows more options of food but still in good moderation.

Like last week, I’ll share a recipe I’ve used a couple times that can be found in the 17 Day Diet book.

Sesame Fish:

Ingredients: 1 lb of salmon

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons rice vinegar

2 Tablespoons lite soy sauce

1 Teaspoon chopped garlic

2 Tablespoons sesame seeds

Spray pan with vegetable oil spray to prevent fish from sticking.  Place fish in pan cook half-way.  Whisk olive oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic until well blended.  Pour over fish.  Finish cooking fish.  (Here I added mushrooms and onions and sauteed).  Once cooked, pour sesame seeds over the fish.  Voila! Yummy! Pair it with a side of vegetables. Enjoy!

The rhythm of life, still beating on

♪♫♪ Alors tu vois, comme tout se mêle / Et du cœur à tes lèvres, je deviens ton casse-tête…

I can’t believe it’s August. Seriously, where did my summer go? Oh that’s right, to research work, psych class, and, of course, organic chemistry lab. But I’m so relieved that this class will be over and done with in a matter of days…just need to get through this last final exam this week. By the time this post is up, unbelievably, I’ll even be done with it all. For the first time, I have a professor who does the “drop-any-exam” policy, meaning that I could drop the psychology final for my class because I was going in with a good grade already from the other three exams. Thank goodness, because I’ve had my hands full with so many other things! I turned in my final paper a couple days ago and I think it turned out nicely (how multitasking with laptops in class affects academic performance…it’s pretty much what you expect haha. Inverse relationship: more multitasking = lower grades. I guess I should take my own advice in the paper and more strictly stay off my laptop during lecture now…oops).

The final lab practical actually went well last week! We had to synthesize luminol for chemiluminescence, which is what forensics uses at crime scenes to detect bloodstains. It actually wasn’t too bad of a procedure, thankfully not involving distillation of any kind, and the hardest part was probably just heating things at over 200 degrees Celsius. I was relieved that one of my friends warned me not to burn my product, though, because I saw some people’s product turning black. I kept an eye on mine to make sure it stayed a yellowish color, and all went well (other than a few accidental brushes with the burning hot heating mantle). I was also careful to avoid my thermometer bursting, thank goodness, which is what happened to a neighboring student and scared me breathless because the glass flew everywhere. No one was hurt other than the thermometer thankfully, and everyone was a hundred times more watchful of their own thermometers after that. Note to any orgo lab students in the fall: keep your thermometer cooling down with your solution until at least 100 degree Celsius! The sudden temperature change from over 200 to room temp when you pull it out will make it explode, and this will terrify everyone around you and you will shamefully have to get the dustpan from the stock room and a new thermometer. While I didn’t have a very good percent yield, but the chemiluminescence portion went quite well. It felt like the longest seconds of my life, watching my professor watch her iPhone stopwatch to see how long my luminol would last. But that sucker managed to glow a brilliant bright blue for 20+ seconds, to my absolute relief.

In a matter of days I’ll be starting Campus Housing training and then right after that it’ll be time to shuffle into classes every day again. I don’t anticipate training to be difficult though, since I’ve been through it all once before last year, and I doubt very much protocol has changed. Honestly, I’ll probably be yawning through most of the lectures on community, duty, how to tutor, and so on, but it’s going to be so incredibly exciting meeting the whole new staff. Courtyard always has the largest staff by far (nearly 30 people), and with only a small fraction being returner staff (including fellow UIC blogger Holly, who is the Senior Resident Assistant!), there will be many many new faces to see and people to meet. I’m actually more nervous about getting ready for my residents, because I’ll have roughly 50 or more this year! That’s kind of a jump up for me from last year, when I was lucky with only about 30 residents. I’m worried that it’ll be hard to get to know everyone as personally, so I’ll have to step up my game in the first couple of weeks and try to put names to faces as soon as possible. And of course, I’m looking forward to meeting my co, the RA to my PM. I’m already thinking about door decs, bulletin boards, and floor decorations and what I can possibly make before the year is started. I’m not exactly the most artsy person when it comes to decorations and crafts, and it’s always been a struggle for me to be really creative with them…hopefully they come out somewhat appealing to the eye.

This is kind of what I was worried about when I started the summer – that I would feel burnt out at the end of classes and then jumping straight to training and then classes. But there’s no time for that, because who’s got time to be tired? I’m planning on taking this one free weekend (well, training starts Sunday, so really a little less than two days) to pull myself together and rally. I’ve got a long list of things to do that I’ve been putting off in lieu of more important things (school and work of course) and it’s time to catch up – namely little things for myself, like updating my music/running playlist at last because it’s sorely overdue, finish packing up stuff to move over to East campus, printing out some sheet music and chords to have ready to mess around with when I have time, and practicing that darn Bm chord on the guitar (the “real” way, not the “kiddie” way I’ve been playing it haha).

It’s not much, but these are little things that are keeping me sane lately. And I do want to cram as much reading of Neuroscience and Physics in as possible before the school year starts because I am so anxious about the heavy course load I’m taking this semester. I’m trying to scrape together a mental list of motivation to keep me going because, to be honest, I would love a vacation right about now!

Et malgré ça , il m’aime encore et moi je t’aime un peu plus fort / Mais il m’aime encore, et moi je t’aime un peu plus fort ♪♫♪

(Comme des enfants - Coeur de Pirate)

The best thing in life

I wanted to read 20 books before it was time to go back to school. I didn’t think that was a particularly ridiculous or unattainable goal, but I definitely didn’t make it. Including the current book I am reading, I’ve (nearly) finished 10 books since I came home from school.

That’s still a lot of reading, but I really wanted to read more. It gets hard to keep with a book during the school year since I feel like I’m constantly on the move. It’s senior year, though-my final year to get things right, and I am insistent on making time to read. I don’t want to lose my favorite hobby to being busy.

If you’re looking for a book (or 10!) to read, I actually recommend all of the books I’ve read this summer; it just depends what genre you are interested in. Here’s the list…I hope you take the time to read something off of it- or, I hope this inspires you to read more.

1. The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger

I’ve started and stopped reading this book in the past because of not having the time to finish, so this was first on my list to tackle. It was published over 10 years ago, and you’d have no idea, minus the slightly dated pop culture references. Otherwise, the story still holds its own in 2014. Most likely considered to be in the genre of ‘chick lit’ (among some of my other reads this summer), this story pulls out all the stops. You will definitely laugh out loud, potentially cry, and feel a lot of hatred for a boss you don’t even know (but feel like you do). No matter who you are, you can probably relate to the main character, Andrea; she is just starting out as a recent college graduate trying to get a job and establish herself (she was also an English major!) and is going through some hard times balancing the demands of an entry-level job and friends/family/etc. The movie-with Anne Hathaway as the main character-leaves out a lot of really good parts of the book, so don’t think you know the whole story if you watch it.

2. Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, Lauren Weisberger

I have a really hard time reading a book and not checking out its sequel if there is one. I have to know if there’s more, whether or not it’s worth knowing. When this book started out, I wasn’t thrilled, but once I got deeper into it, I was really happy I followed up with it. This book just came out in 2013, and the main character has done a lot of growing up in the time between novels. I know that both of these books received mixed reviews, but I do think they are enjoyable; however, I don’t recommend reading them if you’re in the mood for a really fast-paced thriller. These are not going to satisfy that need. But otherwise, if you’d like a nice book to get into, check these two out.

3. The Intern’s Handbook, Shane Kuhn

After coming off of my previous two books, this book was fantastic. I found it in two-week rental section of my library-generally where brand new books are. I didn’t even need two weeks; this book was so good that I couldn’t put it down and was done in just a few days. Published in April, this thriller is all about an “intern” on his final assignment. These interns are really assassins and spend their days taking down corrupt executives. This book combined my love of internships with my love for a good thriller and really strung me along the entire journey. It’s one of those with a fantastic ending and surprises throughout. If you’ve ever been an intern, or if you haven’t and would like a look into the complete opposite world of an intern, this book is for you. This was easily one of my favorite reads this summer.

4. Love Story, Erich Segal

My mom recommended this book to me one day at the library. Since I read ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ last year, she picked this book up and handed it to me, saying it was her generation’s version of John Green’s storyline. Of course, I was immediately interested, checking it out and finishing it within the same day. Just recently, the book showed up on a list of the top summer reads of the last however many decades, so it was really popular in its prime. It might make you cry, it and it could certainly be categorized as chick lit, but it was good, simplistic, and old. (Apparently made into a movie…no word on its quality)

5. Oliver’s Story, Erich Segal

Once again, I saw the sequel to a book on the shelf right next to it, so I had to grab it. This one wasn’t as easy to get into as ‘Love Story’, and when I told my mom that, she reminded me that she only recommended the first book to me. Eventually, the story engrossed me, but I was still sad from the first book and it was affecting my enjoyment of this book. I don’t think that would happen to everyone, though. I do recommend the first book more, especially (obviously) if you’re only going to read one of these two. But, if you want the story to continue after you’ve finished ‘Love Story’, definitely pick this up. (Also apparently made into a movie?)

6. Devil in the White City, Erik Larson

I feel like there is a lot of hype around this book, which was a big part of the reason I had to read it for myself. I’m really into historical fiction (this book is not) and thriller/stories about murderer (sick of me, I know, but this book is about that). At any rate, a true story about the World’s Fair and a murderer preying off Chicago tourists was really interesting to me, and I think this story would captivate anyone. I first learned about H.H. Holmes on the Ghost Tour back in October, so reading this book really brought me full circle. A long read, but worth it. I recommend this if you like learning about Chicago, too.

7. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

This book is and has been pretty popular right now. I even noticed my library was having repeated book discussions about the book…yet I had to use the interlibrary loan system to check out the book (from another library…) Anyways, this book was phenomenal. I was constantly wondering what would happen next, and at one point, everything I thought I knew about the book and its characters was thrown out the window. I love that. It might even be safe to say this is one of my new favorite books. This book is for anyone-absolutely anyone. There’s no way you couldn’t like it or be caught up in it. Guess I could inform you a little bit-on the day of a couple’s 5 year wedding anniversary, the wife goes missing and everyone is looking at the husband as the culprit. He, too, is in search of her while trying to keep his name clear. I’m so excited for the movie! A statement you’ll almost NEVER hear from an English major………………………….

8. All We Know of Heaven, Jacquelyn Mitchard

Ok, this book was downright sad. If you need to cry, which I guess I must’ve felt the need to do when I was picking out this book, then you, too, should grab a copy. When two best friends are in a horrible car accident, the family and friends of the small town are left to mourn the death of one girl and pray for the brutally injured other girl. Only, it turns out to be a case of mistaken identity……… This is a really great book and isn’t too long, either. Don’t read it if sad stories aren’t for you, though! You’ve been warned.

9. One Day, David Nicholls

Apparently this became a movie, too? Why don’t I know these things? Anyway, this book (as the cover states) is about 20 years, 2 people, and 1 day. Basically, two people met one day just before college graduation and only become slightly romantically involved. They meet again year after year, but their lives are changing and they seldom keep in touch. The end of the book will completely shock you, and the duration of the story will make you question the main characters again and again. This is probably considered a romantic novel.

10. My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult

I realize I’m about 500 years late to this game. I realize this one is a movie-I’m not entirely clueless, and I’m not finished with the book, either…don’t tell me the ending! I always thought the storyline of this book was sick, but something made me want to finally read it. I am actually very interested in it and am truly enjoying it. A great thing about this book is each chapter is coming from the point of view of a different character; this is a great way to get to know everyone in the text, and you can decide to like a character all on your own. So far, I really recommend this, but like I said, I’m not done, so my opinions on this one could really change depending on what Picoult does to me in the next 100 pages. We’ll see…I’m a little nervous.

So there you have it. There’s the 10 books that got me back into the swing of things these past few months. I really hope you find the time to put down your electronic device and open a real, paper book and enjoy yourself. Now that’s living.

17 days

So, I’m on a new diet.  It’s called the “17 days of misery.”  JUST KIDDING. It’s called the “17 day diet.”  My boyfriend’s mom did it a couple years ago and she lost 10 lbs in two weeks.  Since I’ve been working so much, I haven’t had a lot of time to workout and I would like to lose 10 lbs before school starts. I’ve done cleanses before that helped me lose a good amount of weight, but also left me lifeless and pale. This seemed perfect because it was created by a doctor based on how the human body works. 

The 17 day diet consists of 4 cycles of 17 days, Accelerate, Activate, Achieve, and Arrive.

Accelerate- the rapid weight loss portion which helps flush sugar and fat storage from your system.

Activate-the metabolic restart portion, with alternating low and high calorie days to help shed body fat.

Achieve-a phase that involves learning to control portions and introducing new fitness routines.

Arrive-a combination of the first three cycles to keep good habits up for good.  On weekends, enjoy your favorite foods!!

Being in the first week of the Accelerate cycle, I immediately started noticing differences in my body, and not just in weight.  My stomach is calm, never upset.  I’ve been sleeping better, my complexion is clearer, and I lost 3 lbs in the first 3 days!

The big question is, WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU ALLOWED TO EAT?

Answer (Accelerate): Chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, certain veggies (cleansing veggies), fruit (before 2 pm), and probiotics.  They also suggest you drink a glass of green tea with every meal, 8 glasses or more of water, and warm water with lemon right when you wake up in the morning.

The first day, I’ll admit, I.was.hungry.  But as I progressed and started making goals for myself, I felt better.  I think part of it was mental.  I started writing down everything I ate, which also motivated me not to cheat. Who wants to admit they cheated the first week of a diet? Not me.

Here is a sample of what one of my dinners consisted of: Cauliflower Pizza

I know, it sounds weird.  I thought it was weird at first, too.  But I miss pizza so much, anything that calls itself a pizza, is worth a try.

You need: one head of cauliflower, fat-free mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, one egg, pizza seasonings, and any veggie toppings you’d like.

Put little pieces of cauliflower in a food processor (It also says if you don’t have a food processor, you can use a cheese grater) until it has a rice like consistency/size.

Once you’ve done that, beat one egg and put it in your rice-like cauliflower.  Add 1 cup fat-free mozzarella cheese.  Mix until it becomes (somewhat) like dough.

On parchment paper, either on a pan or pizza stone, put the mixture and spread it into a circle about 1/8 inch deep. Smash down. Add pizza seasoning.

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees. Bake the crust for 20 min or until golden brown.

Take out, put on your favorite toppings (I used tomato, mushroom, basil, and garlic).

Put back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes and VOILA! Pizza.

It was not bad at all.  I am actually not a huge fan of cauliflower but I was impressed at how flavorful it turned out.

I’ve been trying a new dinner every night to change it up a bit.

So, I am pretty happy with my results so far. I’ll tell ya my biggest challenge is not having dessert or wine.  But i’ve done ok.  Wish me luck! Stay tuned for an update next week!

Don’t forget the rest day

♪♫♪ Now I’m laughing at my boredom, at my string of failed attempts / because you think it’s important, and I welcome the sentiment…

Despite classes and work going on, it actually hasn’t been too hard to carve out some time every day for a good workout – and I really need to if I want to keep up with this marathon training. But even now after several weeks, I’m still behind the designated schedule when it comes to the long runs (this is week 5 of 16…and my long run is supposed to reach 14 miles. I think I should be able to hit just about 11…yikes.) But it’s true that I haven’t been strictly following the schedule either, and I’ve been treating it more like a guideline to training rather than a strict regimen. I just have the feeling that if I followed it to a tee, I’d probably get bored really quickly or worse, push myself too much and get hurt. So I’ve been changing up the workouts here and there to match my own pace, mostly depending on how much time I have that day and how tired I am from getting through the day. I’m nervous because it’s kind of risky taking my chances by “modifying” my weekly mileage since I’ve never done a marathon before. I really hope it works out down the road in October!

Even though this summer has been reasonably hectic,  I’m really not nearly as busy as I usually am during the school year when I’m juggling many more classes, working as a Peer Mentor, and keeping up with all the extracurricular activities going on. So even though it’s been an 8 AM to 5 PM daily schedule, I feel like it’s still a much lighter load. I don’t have to bring my research lab work home with me, and I only have two classes to worry about, so I actually find myself not as stressed and actually sleeping at decent hours! When I head to the gym either before classes or after work, I’m running at least 50 minutes a day on the track inside the student rec center.

That is something that makes me nervous though–running on the track instead of outside on real pavement. I am worried that by the time the marathon comes around, I won’t be properly acclimated to running outside, which in my opinion is about a thousand times harder than running in a flat, temperature-controlled track room. I know that I should be practicing my long runs outside, but I actually really dislike running outside in the city. At home, in the suburbs, there aren’t many cars in the subdivision. But here in Chicago, it kind of feels like I’m always running into stoplights and cars and have to stop or jog in place until I can get going again. I also don’t like feeling myself breathe in all of the smog and car exhaust around me…I’m not sure if it’s a myth or not, but I’ve been told before that it can actually be more damaging to your lungs to go running in the city than it is to just not workout outside at all. I don’t know if that’s an exaggeration, but the thought has always stuck in my mind, and now whenever I run outside in Chicago I always wonder if my lungs are actually suffering from all the smoke I’m inhaling. So whether it’s for peace of mind or the sake of not becoming a traffic accident, I almost always run indoors. I know that’s probably going to come back and bite me on race day, but I guess I’ll try to deal with it then like I usually do.

Just a fun picture of what my roommate Chevelle and I do with our time off :)

One big thing that I tend to forget is the all-important, necessary rest day. When I do have more time than usual on my hands like I do this summer, I pretty much want to squeeze in a workout every day no matter what, weekends included. I get addicted to the workout high and it feels wrong to skip even a single day. But, as I’ve learned the sad, hard way before, rest days do not equal cheat days at all — they’re recovery days. And my body needs them, whether my brain wants them or not. I like to lie to myself and tell myself that I can take it, that it can’t hurt to push myself a little more–and sometimes this is very effective. I hit new best times and personal records with this kind of mindset. But after running for about two years now, I’m wiser enough to know now that it’s not always a sustainable kind of thinking. Some time ago, when I was a beginner runner, I once pushed myself way too hard by not taking any rest days at all throughout the whole week. Then one day during a casual run, when I hadn’t even hit 5 miles yet, I felt something in my knee kind of go pop and I felt a terrible strain when I tried to continue. A cold sweat ran through me and I immediately stopped, terrified that I had finally risked too much and injured myself by not properly caring for myself.

But I was extremely lucky. I slowly stretched out my knee, feeling awful soreness and no agonizing pain. I considered a good warning from my body, and I ended my running that day and did some yoga to just relax, feeling like I dodged a bullet. I learned my lesson from then and would always factor in a rest day sometime in the week from then on. It would be a nightmare to injure myself seriously or even slightly because of the huge setback to my fitness and health, regardless of whatever training I’m doing. I’ve been a lot more careful to stretch since then and to make sure I alternate between hard runs and easy runs–and of course, incorporate at least one rest day a week.

So with all that, here’s kind of a sample of a week of marathon-training-running for me right now…

  • Monday: 4 miles run
  • Tuesday: 7 miles race pace
  • Wednesday: 4 miles run
  • Thursday: Rest Day
  • Friday: Long Run – ideally 10+ miles
  • Saturday: 5 miles run / Cross training (usually swimming)
  • Sunday: 3 miles run

Andddd essentially repeat the above but slowly adding to the mileage each week. I’m following the 16-week marathon training plan loosely, and hopefully it’s not a case of me thinking I know better though. When October comes around, I’m determined to be physically and mentally prepared to make it through that 26.2!

So we will drink beer all day / and our guards will give way / and we’ll be good ♪♫♪ 

(Be Good - Waxahatchee)

Residence hall requirements

In just over a week, I’ll be moving back into the residence halls for my final year. For most people living on campus, move-in isn’t until much later on in August, but I’m headed back for one last round of resident assistant training.

After living at school for 3 years, I’d like to think I have a pretty good grasp on what I need to bring, what I can survive without while I’m away at school, and what I absolutely can’t do without. Here’s my list of essentials that I recommend everyone bring when living on campus. Don’t go without them-trust me.

(In no particular order):

Fridge: I can’t imagine ever not having a fridge while away at school. You’ve got to have somewhere to put leftovers from one of the many awesome restaurants downtown! Even if I was just keeping water bottles cold, my fridge has always been pretty much vital to my survival at school.

Bandaids/first aid supplies: I’m not joking about this. At least having bandaids and Neosporin on hand is really important, because you’ll always find a way to get hurt at school. Plus, around here, there isn’t a nurse or parent to go to for immediate help. Step 1 in becoming a grown-up.

Outfit for job or internship interviews: Some people back a small amount of clothes for school. Others haul nearly their entire wardrobe (guilty as charged.) Either way, don’t forget to bring some type of professional outfit for potential jobs or interviews. Don’t miss out on an opportunity because you didn’t have anything to wear; always be prepared for these types of things. Since you’ll be at school, not to mention in the middle of a huge city, there will be a lot of opportunities waiting for you to take advantage of. Don’t let your wardrobe be your boss.

Movies: Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of whatever you can find on t.v.-especially if you don’t have Netflix like me. Bring along some movies that you can watch in case you feel like laying around one night and relaxing or if you’d like to watch with some friends.

Shower shoes: I don’t care who you are, where you live, whatever the case-bring shower shoes. You don’t want to contract anything from other people’s feet germs and you’ll actually feel clean if you come out of the shower in your shoes. Just do it…there are plenty of inexpensive flip flops out there.

A book to read: Textbooks are always really dense and it can be hard to find a way to relax or feel a bit of home. For me, reading a book for leisure while at school makes me feel like I’m at home, since that’s something I’ve always done. It’s great to have something take your mind off of schoolwork and stress.

Chocolate/candy: Not too much, and not to the point that you are getting cavities or giving them to your floormates. It’s nice to have a little stash or backup for those times where you’ve had a rough day or just need a pick me up. It’s also a great thing to share with other people on your floor-instant friends!

Ear plugs: If you don’t have these, you can pick up a pair from the Wellness Center. Living with other young people is unpredictable and can become very lousy. Make sure you have a pair of earplugs on hand so that you are able to get your sleep when you need it.

Brita: It isn’t good for you (or the environment) to only drink water bottles all the time. It also isn’t good to only drink when you’re down at the cafeteria. This is why I think Britas or other water filters that can be kept in a fridge are your best bet. This will help you make sure you’ve getting enough water and have it available at all times.

Travel mug and water bottle: Whether it’s with this water you’re drinking or a cup of coffee, make sure you are staying hydrated all day. Bring some type of travel cup/mug so that you can bring a drink wherever you go, whenever you need to.

Cold medicine: Just like papercuts or scrapes, colds happen. And trust me- it can be really hard to be away from your family and feeling helpless. Bringing whatever cold medicine you are comfortable with is a good idea to stave off some of those awful cold symptoms. You’ll be feeling back to 100% in no time.

Lap desk: I know there are a lot of people who prefer to study or do homework outside of their room, but for those who aren’t bothered, I recommend purchasing a lap desk that can sit on a person’s lap and allow them to do whatever they’d like while sitting wherever they like. I’ve used my lap desk for homework, for eating a meal, and for RA door decorations before, and each time I use it, it proves even more invaluable.

Command strips: Can’t be punching holes in the residence hall rooms. Make sure you have brought many different forms of the command strip so that you can hang anything or fix anything that has fallen. They won’t damage the wall when you take them down, either.

Bathrobe: I think robes are the best thing ever. For me, getting out of the shower and into my robe is a great way to relax. Plus, in terms of living on campus housing, a robe is an extra privacy step around others. These are also perfect for when you’re sick, tired, etc.

Isopropyl alcohol: This goes hand in hand with the command strips, because the directions call for you to wipe down the wall or surface before applying the command hook. This also doubles as part of a first aid “kit” to prevent infections and stop bleeding.

Cleaning supplies: It isn’t always going to look clean in your room or bathroom, especially once it was lived in. Make sure to clean up fairly frequently to prevent germs and infections spreading. This just prepares you for the real world in which you have to clean whatever space you’re living in.

 Extension cords: Although there are a lot of outlets around the rooms, I strongly urge bringing a cord or two. This way, you can plug in anything you want around a location in the map. Don’t go without at least one.

Good luck packing up with the end of summer almost here. I hope you remember to bring some of these essentials, because I can guarantee that you will be needing them at some point. Good luck!

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