Take some time

I was sitting in Management today, waiting impatiently the for the midterm to start. I completely forgot my professor (who I have had before) likes to teach about the next chapter/unit right before we have the midterm for the previous chapters. I’m pretty sure he was just trying to confuse us all. Regardless, he was talking about creativity in relation to business and negotiations.

The first thing he started saying was that amidst our hectic schedules, we should set aside time to have a meeting with ourselves every week. This was especially funny to me due to my delusion state from midterm studying, but either way, I thought he was losing it. Until I heard where he was going with the argument.

He was telling us that people are too busy living their lives so fast-paced that they don’t take the time to think retrospectively and consider if what they are doing with their life makes them happy. We are constantly moving, trying to improve our careers, social life, whatever it may be. And not even for a second may we stop and consider what we are doing in relation to the fact that we only get one shot to do this right, and by right I mean right by each of us personally.

This is an incredibly valid point. We’re always on the go from class to class, work to home, internship to internship. But eventually that turns into semester to semester, year to year, decade to decade, and that adds up fast. Speaking personally, I can’t believe I’m already a junior. I don’t know where my time here has gone, and although I cherish all of my experiences, I have had the occasional meltdown because there is still so much that I want to pack into my time at UIC.

My professor was talking about people having that same exact realization, but on a broader scale. What happens when we get to the point in our lives where we realize we haven’t been doing everything we wanted to? We’ve just been going through the motions, advancing our career because that’s what we thought we were supposed to do. Buying property because everyone’s doing it. All that good stuff.

While I think the whole scheduling a meeting with yourself thing is pretty goofy, I wholly understand exactly what he means about it all. If we don’t all stop, take a breather, and assess our actions and goals as often as possible throughout our lives, how can we honestly say we’re happy and are doing what we want to do?

Take some time, whether it’s five minutes or just a resounding thought you keep in the back of your head. Make sure you’re truly happy and where you want to be in your life. Do you see happiness ahead?

To the point you feel your cells moving against your nerves

I can’t define what stress and anxiety feel like, but I can describe it as the title states: to the point you feel your cells moving against your nerves. I get that feeling when I’m playing video games. Put me in Gears of War 3 and I’ll play until it’s done because there’s no time during the story for a break and you’re constantly shooting and firing away at aliens / mutants without a blink in your eye. It makes me shiver. I didn’t think I could have this feeling when it comes to school, but man do I have the chills right now!

A glimpse at Google calendar would say it all. There’s loads of colored boxes to indicate all of the MCAT studying I have postponed secondary to my inability to motivate myself each day to complete much more (red color) as well as all of my classes, quizzes, club meetings and events that require my attendance (or that I just badly want to go – in blue color). To top it off, there’s the occasional green color that lists the scribe shifts I work (and those are quite the time-space lovers).

If you forward to the future post-MCAT, it’s a wonderful week of spring break (slight sarcasm on the “wonderful”). I am working many 5pm-2am shifts as well as working during the day at research (since I need that time to study for the MCAT now, I have to move everything to that free week). As much as I miss my family and grandmother, it might have to be the week of graduation before I see them again! The pile-up of studying to do is enormous. I am starting to think it may even push the limits of everything I know. It’s crazy to think I have been here for four years and each semester just building on each other in regards to learning, implementing and application to the future. If this is what college is really about, then I’d say I got my money’s worth. Although, I’m not looking forward to paying $25,000 in loans post-graduating. I will need to apply to more jobs to sustain myself if I want to be functional!

I spoke with a Human Rights Campaign worker while on campus and he stated he has been out for 2 years now and stated he had more money during college than coming out of college. It’s so bizarre because you’d think you wouldn’t have any money (assuming you did not work) during school, but that post-college you’d be making more money (again, assuming you found a decent job) and not have as many problems with food, housing etc. Well, totally not the case because we forget about our loans and all of the people we need to repay for helping us get here. He said he still gives at least $12 a month to HRC even though times are tight for him, which shows he’s very dedicated to the group! Unfortunately, I am in no position to help out ANYONE financially. You’d think having 4 part-time jobs would bring in quite an income, but compared to someone working full-time at one job with their Bachelor’s degree and no loans, I make very very very little. This money I make just goes straight to tuition honestly.

And even though it seems stupid to work during school when you could study and get straight A’s on every single assignment and class and join all of the clubs you want, I still think working is really key to helping you find a job post-graduation. The skills you need at a part-time job are TOTALLY applicable to the skills in a full-time job, including but not limited to: communication, time management, multitasking, improving professionalism, etc.

I am totally rambling about unrelated topics into one, but that’s just how my brain works and it’s suited me very well so far! (; I somehow got a 98/100 on my genetics exam (the first one). The 2 points I missed were totally silly mistakes. I can’t believe it! This is my second exam in college where I actually got an A on the rest (without a curve) in a science class. Even though I heard genetics lab was easy, I felt that during the test the questions were VERY difficult and specific (who knows, maybe the added stress of having my Polish exam, which I also did very well on, helped me study for biology, lol!). Has anyone done research on that? Language learning helping with science? I wonder if finding relationships within words helps apply to relationships among numbers and such. Probably, but we need science to prove it, haha!

Because of this weird feeling I have, I think I’m going to need to start exercising soon. Burn off the stress. Just go out and punch something with my MP3 rapping in my ears. Perhaps this is how medical students feel when they study…

Preparing for student elections

This past week, I have been beyond busy getting materials ready for the 2014-15 UIC Student Elections. As a Undergraduate Student Government (USG) member, I am dedicating myself to get the word out to all students about elections.
In case you never heard of UIC Student Elections, let me give you an overview. Each year, UIC administration opens up elections for the entire UIC student body to choose their representatives in a variety of areas. Included in this election is the Student Member of the Board of Trustees and the entire USG assembly.
The Student Trustee position sits on the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, representing the UIC student voice at the highest-level possible on campus for a full-year term. Furthermore, the USG President and Vice-President lead the undergraduate class in all decisions at the campus administrative level for a year-long term. The USG assembly members that run in the election are chosen to represent the undergraduate students in a variety of campus advocacy work for two full years.
This year, the Student Trustee and USG President elections are contested – two candidates are running against each other in the trustee elections and three in the presidential elections.
Elections will be held this year on March 12 and 13 at uicvote.uic.edu. PLEASE remember to vote! It is important that you have a say so in who represents YOU in all UIC administrative levels. To get to know more about the candidates, their platforms, to hear them speak, and when polls are open, please visit the USG website here.
Share your thoughts on the elections in the comment section – I’d love to see them!
Until next time…

Spring Forward

The celebration for my uncle was just utterly amazing.  So many people attended and I heard so many stories from people whose lives he touched.  It was a very difficult day, but a very special one.  I hope that I made him proud with my eulogy.

The last night my family from Oregon was here, we all released sky lanterns into the night sky.  The lanterns were filled with things we wrote to my uncle like, “I love you,” or “I’ll always remember when…”  It was magical and yet my heart still hurts. But now, I have a sense of closure.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog feeling like I was in limbo and not sure what to do or feel after it was all over.  Well, I have stumbled upon that answer.  I feel grateful I had my Uncle Larry in my life.  I feel honored I was able to speak at his celebration of life.  I feel lucky to be surrounded by such amazing family.  And lastly, I am empowered and excited for my future.

A few days after the celebration, I received an email that I needed to get my student teaching application completed.  Already?! I jumped on it right away.  I wrote my essays, submitted all of the paperwork, and received an APPROVED email from my adviser.  Next step: placement.  I got a little nervous because I am hoping to choose a location that could potentially be where I am hired.  I looked to friends for advice and I think I chose a place.  It isn’t for certain yet, so I won’t jinx it.  But I am beyond excited.  I have worked so hard and I am finally almost there, and it feels GOOD!

In the next few weeks I will be placed at a school for student teaching, completing my practicum hours, starting a daily workout regimen, detoxifying my body, looking forward to the next year of my life, and hopefully the weather will start getting warmer again.  Nothing but positivity.  Nothing but determination.  I am springing forward.

                                                       I love you Uncle Larry.

Trading Cultures in Chicago

♪♫♪ I was close to a fault line / Heaven knows, you showed up in time / Was it real?

Last Saturday I had the chance to volunteer with the Trade Winds group at UIC at the Illinois Medical District guest house! Trade Winds is a semester program that is run by UIC OIS (Office of International Services) in which domestic students are paired with international students in order to spend time together throughout the semester to learn about each other’s cultures. The program is unique in that it’s mutually beneficial for all participants. International students are able to learn about things to do in Chicago, UIC, and American cultures and traditions. As a domestic student who has grown in the Chicagoland area my whole life, I am able to learn about cultures, traditions, and values from around the world while making friends and connections that really last. This program offers one of the most welcoming and accepting environments I’ve experienced, and any Trade Winds hosted event is always fun and meaningful. Another great thing about Trade Winds is that the partners decide what they want to do based on their similarities. I participated in Trade Winds during the fall semester as well, and my partner and I had a great time bonding over some delicious food in Chicago! It was a great way to try some new restaurants while getting to know someone from another country. I definitely recommend Trade Winds to all of my friends as a way to experience a different culture within the city of Chicago.

Last week I was able to attend the Trade Winds service event for this semester, which involved making care packages for the people who stay at the Illinois Medical District guest house. I initially looked up the address and traveled there by blue line, but to my utter surprise I found myself right in front of Polk Street Residence (PSR)! Despite having visited PSR many times before, I had no idea that there was actually a guest house connected to the residence halls on west campus. It’s a little bit of a maze inside of there because all of the building are connected one way or another, but after we walked through SSR, eventually we found ourselves in the community room of the guest house.

The IMD guest house, for those who are unaware (like I was) is a safe place that provides accommodations for patients and family or friends of patients at Stroger Hospital or Rush University Health Center at an affordable price. This provides people a safe and warm place to stay while they or their loved ones are receiving health care nearby. I had no idea that there was such a wonderful resource available nearby our school! I was excited to volunteer my time to support the people there and hope to do so again in the near future.

There was a great turnout from our Trade Winds group as we all assembled on Saturday to make dozens of care packages for the people who are staying there. While we worked through a makeshift assembly line to fill bags with all kinds of snacks, we talked and laughed over stories and got to know each other. A few of us, including me, helped out by writing several greeting cards to the package recipients that had positive messages to uplift their spirits. In the end, we had dozens of care packages that each had a greeting card, juice, and several bags of snacks inside. It was very fulfilling to know that just a few hours of our time might make somebody’s day in the future a lot brighter just when they need it. Afterward, since we finished much quickly and efficiently than we expected, our group had a great time just relaxing and getting to know one another! Through games of Jenga and UNO, I made some wonderful new friends that I now see around campus all the time.

Thanks to Trade Winds for such a terrific volunteer experience! I can’t wait for our next event!

Is it dark where you are? / Can you count the stars where you are? ♪♫♪

Longest Night - Howie Day

March into Midterms

It’s that time again. I know a lot of people have had midterms already, but for those who haven’t, I have some tips I’ve provided my residents with as well. They are what helps me with studying the most. Hopefully you’ll try at least one of them out- I guarantee it’ll help you get higher scores!

1. Get plenty of sleep! Studies show that it is more effective to go to bed at a reasonable hour the night before a test than it is to stay up late or even all night to cram. If it isn’t possible for you to get a good night’s sleep, try to fit in a nap somewhere so you can get a boost of energy!

2. Manage your time. If you’re able to find time to prepare for your exams ahead of time, you won’t feel the need to stay up late the night before and study. Time management and avoiding procrastination is done in a unique way by everyone, but I highly recommend keeping a calendar in your room as well as a planner that you carry around with you. Some are even broken down into hourly time slots, which is extremely beneficial for those who need a highly disciplined schedule, whether due to procrastination or an insanely busy schedule. By writing down all things that need to be accomplished in a day or in a set amount of time, you are holding yourself accountable and are more likely to complete the tasks. Additionally, you will feel less anxiety about trying to remember what you need to do.

3. Alternate study areas and find places that are conducive study atmospheres. It’s great when you find somewhere that you are able to study and focus really well. Even better is when you find multiple places where you can study. By studying in different places, you will be less likely to become quickly bored or distracted, and since memory is colored by location, you will be able to recall what you studied more quickly when you can also recall where you studied. Try to study one subject per location so that you are able to associate that space with studying that topic. Generally speaking, make sure that the spaces you are choosing to study in are effective. Look for some place that is quiet and free of distractions. Make sure to silence or turn off that phone, too. Every time you are distracted from your work, it takes even longer to get back on track again.

4. Study in groups/with someone. Nothing like accountability to make you do your work (since self-control isn’t always there…) By studying with someone, you are able to keep one another on track. Also, the most effective way to learn something is by teaching it to someone else. Make sure you aren’t studying with people who are slacking or not interested in studying; this will only slow you down. It’s a great idea to assign topics that will be on the exam to each person in the study group and later reconvene and teach one another the topic.

5. Take breaks. I know this is the most obvious of all tips, but I have always struggled with this. Breaks can turn into hours of pointless Facebook use, television watching, or just plain laying around. It has been proven that you can only fully concentrate for 45 minutes at a time, and for me, that is already too long. I like to work hard for about a half of an hour and then take a 5-10 minute break. The break does not involve the computer or tv; instead, try working out for those 5-10 minutes. Take a walk around the building. Do push ups. This is a great way to stay awake, energized, and will actually make you want to get back to studying when it’s all said and done.

6. Avoid music. So many people always say music or background noise helps them study. More often than not, I have seen this go awry, and quickly. Instead of pulling up Pandora or putting on MTV, try going over your notes or reading the chapter aloud to yourself. This may be more effective to you. If you absolutely need music, avoid anything with lyrics. This can be distracting and difficult for your brain to ignore.

7. Go to class. This is my biggest and most important tip. There’s no point to pay for school if you aren’t going to go to class, and there really is no point in taking the exam if you haven’t been showing up to class. Going to class is like a review session every time. It kick starts your studying since the teacher is talking about topics that will be on the test. It also gives you a chance to talk with other people who will be taking the same exams, and you can form study groups with them.

Good luck to all those during the midterms mayhem. Keep my tips in mind! Study hard.



The aortic arch in March

It’s March.

Not only that, but it’s the eighth week! The semester is halfway gone, and even though I predicted it’d come as fast as it always does, the pressure with a gazillion exams circulating my brain is kind of overwhelming. Just kind of.

To be specific, there are a ton of crazy structures we need to know on the cadavers for anatomy and physiology. The last class we had was difficult to see anything because there were 50 people crowding 3 instructors (1 TA, 2 UT’s) and there’s only so much crowding you can do around a normal person’s height (the “tanks,” they call them). I couldn’t see anything really, and neither could my lab partner who was standing on a high chair! The exam is the week of my MCAT, and I also have a Polish exam coming up (they come every 2 weeks, and did I mention I had to prepare a presentation?).

Luckily my brain is being exercised left and right, up and down, so no need to worry about Alzheimer’s (the occasional brain fart is warranted, however). Gah, and then those 5pm-2am shifts! I sacrificed working the weekends 9am-6pm for the 5pm-2am shifts Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings so that I can get more studying during the day (because at night, it just ain’t gonna happen after those tiring shifts). I can’t imagine what doctors go through because they have to work AND study all the time, even throughout their residency (and beyond that, they have to take tests every 7-10 years to keep up their certification or whatnot). I’m glad I’m conditioning myself to prepare for such a future! As much as I complain about all the things I do, I am relieved to at least know that I can handle very stressful situations and manage my time appropriately to do well in all academic areas.

But, alas, the semester is not over. I have half a semester to still prove my worth as a candidate for medical school, and while my grades are doing pretty good so far, the MCAT is a mystery (until the end of April when I know how I did for real). Until then, I need to buckle down and ignore everyone (not happening, but I try) until it’s all done with. THREE WEEKS! Then, slightly more freedom.

Know Your Student Representatives

As some of you may know, I am an active member of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG). I have been with the organization since I first started at UIC as a freshman. I currently serve as the chairman of the communications & recruitment committee. Today, I wanted to talk a little about USG and what we do.
USG serves as the voice of the undergraduate student body – we are the connection between student and administration. We are a student organization that is funded by the university to work on student issues at UIC.  Through the various internal committees we have, we work on student issues regarding: physical space improvements, university infrastructure, administrative structures, student status concerns, governmental relations regarding financial aid, academics, and more. To learn more about our committees please visit here.
How does one become a member of USG? There are several ways! If you have about six free hours a week, you can become a full-fledged assembly or executive board member by running in the March Student Elections. Space permitting, you can become an interim-assembly member by visiting our membership page on our website. If you’re running low on time, you can become an associate member by attending an hour-long meeting once a week. If you just want to help out here and there, you can become a volunteer. For more information regarding membership, please visit this page.
USG has coordinated and partook in many different initiatives on campus. Many of these collaborations and projects are done with various administrative departments, since we meet with administration weekly. Some of these initiatives include: making sure WiFi is in every building, building a UIC mobile app, planning the UIC smoking ban, implementing the UIC “green” fee, lobbying in Springfield for university money and student financial aid, planning the annual “RECESS” event, organizing a student organization social, and much much more.
All students should be informed about USG and how we serve YOU. Keep up with us or reach out to us in the following ways below – we love hearing from you!
Until next time…

A eulogy for my uncle

John Lawrence Muellner wore many hats.  Literally.  I mean, he has a hat on in half of those pictures.  He was stylish like that.  But I’m pretty sure that was partially thanks to my Aunt Maggie.  Jokes aside, he was indeed, a jack of all trades. Actor. Director. Musician. Loving husband and father. Uncle and brother.  Cousin and Son.  Vietnam Veteran. Woodworker.  He had a sweet tooth (which must be some sort of Muellner gene because I have it too).  Co-inventor of the pain game.  Oregon Duck fan. Chicago Cubs fan. Creator of the name Pie-Eyed Pizzeria. Someone who will be truly missed by many.  

 A few weeks ago, someone sent me this quote from an unknown author; “Sometimes I wish I were a little kid again, skinned knees are easier to fix than broken hearts.” Ain’t that the truth?

 I’d like to thank all of you for coming today to celebrate the life of John Lawrence Muellner. He was my uncle, my mentor, and my friend.

 A couple years ago for Christmas, my parents gave me a big container just filled with things they had collected as I grew up. Pictures, report cards, art projects. So, a little over a year ago, I felt the urge to go through everything, piece by piece.  I found a note that I must have missed before, that my Uncle Larry sent me in 1989, when we lived in our old house on Lamon.  Little did I know that at 3 years old, that little piece of paper with a few words written on it would mean so much to me as an adult.  I don’t remember what it came with, but I am so thankful I have that little piece of paper now.  It says, “To Lauren of Lamon.  With Deepest Admiration, Your fan and uncle, Larry Da Mule.”  That piece of paper is something I will treasure the rest of my life.

 I mentioned that my uncle Larry was the co-inventor of the Pain Game.  Let me explain a bit what that was.  The object of the game was to come up with the most creative way to inflict a small amount of physical pain and/or annoyance on another player.  There were specific rules to follow.  Obviously, it had to be creative and original. It couldn’t be mean spirited because it was all in good fun.  For example, a good 20 seconds of pinching someone’s cheeks. It actually sounds sort of barbaric, now that I actually explain it.  But man, it was hilarious.  I would rarely participate but I ALWAYS liked to watch and laugh.  In the beginning, the rule was if you were in the room, you had to participate.  But who could say no to this face.  It was a tradition every time he was here. Eventually, no one could come up with anything new and original.

 A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to Eugene.  My uncle Larry and Zoe picked me up from the Eugene airport.  I remember Zoe had school and rehearsal for CATS, and aunt Mag was working all day.  So, we dropped Zoe off at school and he showed me around Eugene.  It was really great actually because we got to spend the whole day together, just him and me.  He brought me to Mount Pisgah, and we went hiking.  We took a couple breaks, enjoyed the view while trucking up the trail, and we talked a lot.  About life, love, and he told me how happy he was that I was there.  When we got to the top, I asked someone to take a picture of us with beautiful Eugene in the background. That is how I will remember him.

 On that same trip, I was reading different scripts a theatre company was sending me.  I was trying to decide which one I wanted to direct.   I didn’t think any of them were that good, to be honest, but I was getting pressured to make a decision.  So I asked for his help and he was more than willing to read whatever I gave him.  There was one script in particular; Let me put it this way; it was the least lousy of the dozens I had read. It was about these rebel nuns that would swear and smoke cigarettes.  I brought it with me to Eugene so he could read it.  That night when I went to bed, he stayed up to read it.  The next morning, I was eager to find out what he thought.  I walked in the kitchen the next morning and asked, “So Uncle Lar, what did you think?” and he said, with no hesitation, “I thought it STUNK!”  I laughed and felt relieved that he said what I had been feeling.  That was definitely the end of the nun play. “Don’t settle,” he said.  “Wait until they send you something great that you deserve to work on.”

 A few months ago when his health was ailing, I sent him a letter telling him how important and influential he was to me.  I was afraid for his health and I needed him to know how much I cared about him.  I wrote “Hey old man, I heard you weren’t feeling the greatest and I wanted to write you for 3 reasons. 1) No one writes letters anymore 2) It feels good to get something in the mail that isn’t a bill, and 3) I want you to know how important you are to me.  You know, you are my favorite uncle (shh don’t tell the others) and you always encouraged me to explore my passions in life. I always hoped you’d move back to Chicago so we could see each other more than once a year.” I ended it “With love, your favorite niece (shh don’t worry, I wont tell the others). Be well and I’ll be seeing you.”

 With all the pain and suffering in the world, I went through a time when I wasn’t sure what I believed anymore.  Monday, December 30, was the day we received the news that he didn’t have much time left.  My father, my aunt Donna, aunt Marilyn, and my grandmother and grandfather were able to skype with him one last time.  He said to my grandmother, “I’ll meet up with you. I love you.” Today, with every fiber of my being, I believe he is up in heaven, and we will all meet up with him one day. 

 Many of you know 2013 was a very difficult year for this entire family.  We lost Dorothy Borta, Anne Fritz, Dave Luttmer, and Bob Borta.  And we all questioned, why?  Why so many in one year? And I don’t know if everyone knows this but, the moment my Uncle Larry left us, he had a smile on his face.  And I think that smile came upon his face because he saw Dorothy, Bob, Anne and Dave, all waiting for him. And he knew it was ok to let go.

 I’d like to share with you quote from the children’s book “Peter and Wendy,” also known as “The boy who wouldn’t grow up.”

 “You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”

 I’ve been having a reoccurring dream with my uncle.  Every time, the environment is different but the circumstances remain the same.  Everyone around me is crying and he says “It’s my time, please don’t be sad anymore.” 

Dear Uncle Larry, we may not be able to extinguish our sadness over your loss, but we are gathered here today to celebrate your life, a life that will never be forgotten.

 With deepest admiration, your fan and niece, Lauren Da Mule.

 Thank you.

The Phantom Returns!

Masquerade, paper faces on parade / Masquerade, hide your face so the world will never find you

On Valentine’s Day weekend, I got the chance to go see my favorite musical of all time The Phantom of the Opera again! My family can vouch for how insane I am about this musical – I once dragged them all to New York City with me to see it on Broadway! Since middle school, my mom and I have gone to see it each time it has come to Chicago as well. To be honest, I think I have lost track of the number of times I have seen it…I believe that this time was my fourth or my fifth! When I was small and saw the film (with Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler), I simply fell in love with the music. I know the film is heavily criticized for its lackluster singing performances, but I personally thought it was beautiful and a lovely rendition. It’s of course a little different from the musical…it’s a movie after all. And it is what first introduced me to the musical and my love of all things Broadway in the first place!

Because my mom was still in Taiwan, I doubted that I would go see it this time – but then my best friend Brandon surprised me with tickets! I was so elated that I would get to see it again. We went the Saturday after Valentine’s Day, so it was a full house! And I was pleasantly surprised because I heard from Brandon that this rendition was especially differently directed than before. I noticed that quickly after the performance began. There were small changes to the way that the music was sung – crescendos at different places with climaxes on different notes while other words that I was used to hear being belted out by the singer were less emphasized. While the dialogue remained the same, I noticed the delivery was markedly different. It really seemed to be a testament to how actors and actresses play such a huge role in the performance. The way a note is sung or a line is spoken can completely change the connotation behind the scene.

I had an amazing time, and because of the little nuanced differences, it was like I was watching the musical for the first time again! And of course, now I’m going to be singing Angel of Music for the next week and a half again…

Masquerade, every face a different shade / Look around, there’s another mask behind you

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