10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Internship

It’s pretty obvious that internships have become a crucial part of marketing ourselves, gaining hands-on experience in the real world, and (in my opinion, most importantly) networking. However, simply “doing” an internship isn’t good enough; that isn’t what is important. It’s crucial that we absorb as much as possible by being granted the experience, and in turn, give the internship everything you have. These things in combination will certainly give you the best experience possible, which is, after all, the ultimate goal. If you currently have an internship, or if you plan to apply for some this upcoming year, here are my tips on how to make the most (and get the most out of) your internships:

  1. Get to know everyone you can. Whether you work at a small or large company with a tiny or gigantic team, there are still plenty of people you can interact with and learn from. Whenever I think about what I loved most at my internships, the people I worked with and was surrounded by always comes to mind. It’s so important to get to know your coworkers on a deeper level than knowing when they take their lunch or what their job title is. By building these relationships, you will have people you care about at work who will also care about you. They’ll be much more willing to help you and teach you as much as possible. These relationships can even last beyond your internship. Don’t be a drone at work-half of the fun is learning from and interacting with those around you.
  2. Expand yourself beyond the 9-5. I’m not talking about working on projects after hours. While that may need to happen, what I’m referring to is expanding your availability and acknowledging that you will only be at your internship for a short amount of time. Because of this, come in on your day off if something unique is going on or there is an opportunity to learn. Drive to the corporate office if you’ve been offered the opportunity to sit in on a meeting. Realize that the more time you put into your internship to learn, the more you will get out of it.
  3. Learn as much as possible about the company/organization with which you are interning. What’s the point of working somewhere if you don’t know much about it? How can you fully understand what you are doing if you don’t know your company’s goals or customer base? Learning whatever you can will make you that much more invested and committed. Why does the logo look that way? When was the organization founded, and for what purpose? You’ll even see that the more you know, the more confident you will be in your ability to do your job and represent your company.
  4. Share your ideas with the team. No one likes a silent intern. While we are primarily in our internships to learn, it is vital to show that you are willing to work with your team to develop new ideas. Your coworkers would be thrilled to hear your perspective, as opinions from an originally “outside” party provide them with a different angle. Not to mention the fact that you are young, in college, and have a unique point of view. Never hesitate to let people know what you think.
  5. Volunteer to assist with various tasks. Does someone look like they could use an extra hand with a project? Do you see people working on something you are knowledgeable about or have an interest in? Speak up and volunteer to help. The worst that could happen is that they say no, and how often do people really turn down help? This will show that you are capable of taking initiative and working well on a team, both vital characteristics of a successful and hard-worker, which you definitely want to be!
  6. Don’t complain about something or point out a problem without some sort of solution. If something is going wrong and needs to be addressed immediately, by all means, point it out. What I’m referring to is more of the type of instances where you don’t think a certain filing system or way of doing things isn’t the most organized or efficient. In this case, develop some sort of solution to offer when you do address the issue with someone. Your innovation won’t go unnoticed.
  7. Keep a work calendar for tasks and reminders. Keep this separate from any other calendar or agendas you have. This way, you can see what work-specific obligations you have each week and can continue to add to it as needed. This is a great way to stay organized at work, and I’ll bet you won’t miss a single meeting or deadline!
  8. Get enough sleep at night. Coming in to work early and/or yawning throughout the entire day will make for an unpleasant and long work day. Your brain will be sluggish and will hold you back from being the best intern possible. Follow up a good night’s sleep with a healthy breakfast and enough water to hydrated throughout the day. You’ll be able to see the benefits both at work and off the job.
  9. Make the most of your free time/time off. Get whatever tasks you need to complete done when you are not at work. Do what you like when you’re off. This way, you’ll appreciate your time both at work and home from work much more, and you won’t be angry about going in. This time is also a prime time to get that much needed sleep.
  10. Keep in touch. Don’t lose contact with any of your coworkers or bosses. These people helped you throughout your internship and truly care about you and your future. Thank them as much as you can, and maintain a relationship with them. Your internship would have been completely different and possibly nonexistent without them, so make sure you remain in contact with them.
Think about what you can do so that when you leave your internship, you are as satisfied as possible, you are glad you did your internship and you feel as though you have gained a wealth of experience. Don’t waste a perfectly good opportunity that is right before your eyes.

My favorite things

Last year I wrote one week about my favorite things. You know, like Oprah did on her show that you wished you could have gotten tickets for since she always gave her audience what she presented.  Just like that…except without free stuff ;).   We all have our favorite things whether they’re cosmetics, clothing, shoes, places or people.  Without further ado, here is my new list of favorites.

#10 The “Happy” music video. This song actually really does make me happy.  And the more I learned about Pharell, the more I started liking him.  The song and video unleashed an enormous trend of groups of people making their own video of people dancing.  Did you know there is a Youtube video of the song that plays over and over for 24 hours?  24 hours of Happy.  Every hour is a different person dancing.  But more than just a great song and video, it has a great message.  Sometimes, I think we tend to focus on the negative things going on in our lives instead of being happy about the positive things.  Guilty! Here’s to being happy about the good things in life and not letting the bad things take over.

#9 Women’s Brooks Adrenaline.  Over the many years of being in the running industry, I have tried many different running shoes.  I used to wear the Asics Kayano, which I still love but I couldn’t get them.  Not to mention they are about $150 now.  So, I tried the Brooks Adrenaline and wow…I couldn’t believe I have been selling this shoe for so long and never really gave it a try myself.  It’s supportive, lightweight, and cushioned.  It’s a great stability shoe that has been one of the top sellers in Runner’s World magazine for years. The price point is better at about $120, and just like the Asics Kayano, I feel like I’m running on air.  I always say “Running is hard. It can be uncomfortable.  So, invest in the products that make you comfortable, (and for the sake of tying things in here), invest in the products that make you happy. :)

#8 Riley’s Gathering Place in Elmhurst.  I have been a regular at Riley’s for a couple years.  It’s owned by the Riley brothers and definitely is a great neighborhood bar.  Many of the patrons are, in fact, neighbors and friends.  Whenever you go, they always make you feel part of the neighborhood.  Wednesdays are Trivia nights, Fridays they have a Fish Fry, and Saturday is, of course my favorite, karaoke.  The always make you feel comfortable and cheer you on for singing your heart out.  Many of the waitresses are now good friends. No wonder I keep having my birthday party there.

#7 No7 Quick Thinking Wipes.  I came across the No7 brand while browsing the Target cosmetics department.  The target cosmetics department is kind of like a black hole.  Once you get in, you cannot get out without a cart full of nail polish, makeup, and hair products that you don’t need.  In this case, however, I was looking to refill my usual makeup remover wipes.  I like using them before I wash my face because sometimes, face wash doesn’t get all the makeup off.  And there is nothing worse to me than going to bed with an unwashed face.  I took a gander at the No7 brand and decided to give it a try.  The No7 Quick Thinking wipes are a little more expensive compared to something like the Pond’s makeup remover wipes, but I do like them better.  They have an entire line of skin care products that I would love to try once I get rich.  But for now, I’ll stick to the Quick Thinking Wipes.

#6 Gogroove Bluetooth system.  I have a 2006 Honda Accord.  Great car, except for the fact that there is no Auxiliary port OR (heaven forbid) a tape deck.  There was no way I could play music from my phone or Ipod, until now.  I have to give my boyfriend the credit for this one because he was the one who found it.  It plugs into the lighter and you set it on a station that is clear, as you would with any bluetooth system, and it comes out so clear with no or very little static.  It also has a feature that allows you to switch from the music to answering a phone call without touching your phone.  You simply press the phone button and the microphone turns on and its a great hands-free way to talk on the phone while your driving.  I love it.

#5 Express (Minus the leather) Jacket.  I absolutely love this jacket.  I had been wanting this jacket for so long but it costs a pretty penny, like many of the things at Express.  Every single time I went there, I would try it on and try…JUST TRY to justify paying for it.  I always left without it.  But if you have the chance to take advantage of their sales, you can usually get away with some cute stuff without giving an arm and a leg in return.  This jacket is cute and goes with pretty much anything.  The pockets have zippers as do the sleeves.  My boyfriend got it for me for my birthday (because he is AMAZING!) and I get compliments every time I wear it.

#4 365 Unrefined Organic Coconut Oil. The first time I heard about coconut oil was last summer when my brother’s girlfriend suggested I try it as a tanning oil.  She used it for tanning and said it did wonders.  So, this year I went to Whole Foods and got some of my own.  There is actually an entire list of things you can do with coconut oil.  I use it for moisturizer, tanning oil, and it can be used for bug repellant, too! I’ve been using it for a couple weeks and can tell the different in my skin.  #3 Hunter Boots. A couple months ago, I was on the hunt for rain boots.  I tried a bunch on at DSW and Target and could not find a pair that looked good, felt good and wasn’t insanely expensive.  Well, I gave up the search and kind of talked myself out of looking due to it not really being in my budget.  I have seen people wearing them and every single time would think “Hunter boots!! I want some!!!!”  Well, I ended up getting a pair for my birthday (once again from my amazing boyfriend).  I tried them on….and it.was.like.heaven.  They were comfortable AND super cute!  They can be used as winter boots too because they also make boot liners!  I am indeed a lucky girl.  I can’t wait to wear them in the rain.

#2 Sam Smith. Sam Smith is a guy who just came into the music scene recently.  The first song he came out with was “Stay with me,” and I immediately loved it.  I have to admit, I don’t know much about him but his voice is just absolutely amazing.  I’m always interested in artists who have a different sound.  And he definitely has a uniqueness to him.  I know when I really like something, it gets it’s own Pandora station on my phone.  The other day, I saw a video of him doing a cover of Whitney Houston’s “How do I know.”  It blew me away. I would definitely recommend checking him out.

#1 David Sedaris. After finishing all the Gillian Flynn novels in a week, I needed a new book or series to get tied into.  A co-worker suggested “Me talk pretty one day.” As she was telling me one of the stories in the book, she could not contain her laughter just thinking back to how funny it was.  I decided to go to my neighborhood book store, The Book Table, and get it.  I ended up getting two.  “Me talk pretty one day” is so funny.  I have not laughed out loud at a book since I read “Good In Bed” by Jennifer Weiner (which I would also recommend reading).  The way he humorously describes his life makes it easy to relate to with everything from your life, love and family…..and all the awkwardness that comes with them.  I haven’t finished it yet, but once I do I will read the second book I bought called “When you are engulfed in flames.”

 

So, there you have it…these are my favorite things. <3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3

The secret to happiness: just one tennis ball

♪♫♪ I’m a new soul, I came to this strange world / Hoping I could learn a bit bout how to give and take…

I know I’m very lucky to be able to go to school in a city so close to home. On a good traffic-less day, Naperville is only an hour away from UIC, so my parents are able to come visit me pretty often, and they often visit me and bring me food or all miscellaneous items I was scatterbrained enough to forget. And when I do want to go home, it’s never far, just a short train or car ride away. I do my best to find a happy medium between spending time with friends, learning to be independent, and experiencing Chicago, and going home to familiar surroundings in the safe suburbs of Naperville. But I’ve never been one to be homesick because there is so much going on in the city around me. And to be honest, there’s not very much for me to miss in Naperville because I see my parents when they visit me, my brother is at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and all of my friends are at various colleges.

He always looks like he's smiling, especially with his tennis ball! :)

But there is one friend that I always miss with my whole heart when I’m not home: Charlie.

Charlie is my neighbors Don and Caren’s dog, and he is hands down the happiest dog I know. Rarely do I step outside my house and not see him pacing his lawn back and forth, eagerly greeting all of his neighborhood friends with a tennis ball in his mouth. Everyone in our subdivision knows and loves Charlie, and he knows and loves everybody too. Many dog-walkers and their dogs stop by to say hello to Charlie because they know how well-behaved and friendly he is with other dogs and people. While he is just naturally very good-natured, I’m sure this is also in part due to Don’s unparalleled ability to train dogs to behave and listen to him so well. Growing up just across the street since I was a kid, I have seen Don and Caren raising their dogs to be the most friendly and obedient dogs in the neighborhood. Charlie is no exception, and he is able to lounge about the front lawn without a leash because he has been so well-trained to be friendly with others and to stay out of the street.

Of course Charlie has friends everywhere, but since Don and Caren live directly across the street from us, my mom and I like to believe that Charlie gets especially excited when he sees us! Both my mom and I are constantly dropping whatever we’re doing and going over to visit and play with him. He is even able to recognize my mom’s car and know when it is her turning into the street!

Hanging with one of my best friends

Charlie loves to play with my mom because he knows that sometimes he might even get a treat from her. Whenever my mom or I leave our house or return home, we are almost always greeted with the uplifting sight of Charlie on his lawn with his tail wagging quick as a whip, eagerly waiting for us to come over and toss the tennis ball for him to play. And boy, does he love to play with that tennis ball! Usually whenever I get home from the grocery store, the YMCA, or anywhere at all, I rush across the street so that I can greet him with a big hug and kiss. I’ll then spend some time just throwing the ball to Charlie as far as I can, into the next lawn, over and over and he will always find the energy to sprint to it, find it, and bring it back to me. I typically tire out first, and once I sit down on the grass, he often lays down next to me, still chewing on his ball. Over the years, Charlie has surely gone through countless tennis balls, and there’s always a few lying around the front lawn! But it doesn’t matter which one he favors that particular day because as long as he has a tennis ball in his mouth, he’s truly the happiest dog alive.

Just gliding through the water

Before I had to come back to UIC for summer courses, Don was kind enough to take me along to see Charlie swimming! As Don explained to me, almost all dogs love to swim, but Labrador Retrievers like Charlie especially love to swim, and are very talented at it because they even have webbing between their toes to help them. Don always told me how much Charlie loved to swim too, so I was so excited to be able to see it up close and personal! One sunny Saturday morning, Charlie hopped into the back seat of Don’s car and we drove to a pond just a few minutes away from our street. Once we reached the edge of the pond, Don threw the ball far into the water…and it took almost no time at all for Charlie to leap in right after it! It was astounding how strong of a swimmer he was, and within seconds he retrieved the ball, swam back, and climbed back out, dripping wet and looking as happy as any dog could be. After shaking off all the water (onto Don and me!) he was ready right away for another round of swimming. For the next hour, Don and I took turns playing fetch with Charlie by the pond, and I was able to see just how much Charlie loved to swim. Don also showed me a little bit of how he trains Charlie by commanding him to stay after the ball is thrown and wait (with a great deal of patience) until Don allows him to chase after the ball. A couple of times, Charlie would be too eager to get his ball back, and he would jump the gun and leap in the water early. Then Don would hold him back and command him again vocally with hand motions, and Charlie would learn very quickly what he was supposed to do. After a couple of tries at sounding stern, I was also able to get Charlie to listen to my commands! It really shows how obedient and smart he is, especially when he’s able to discern Don’s commands by hand gestures alone. After spending some time running in the sun to dry off, we drove Charlie home for his bath…it was a fantastic day for all of us!

My neighbor Don with his dog Charlie

So whenever it’s time for me to go back to the city, I probably miss Charlie more than anything else in Naperville. Dogs are just so wonderful, always channeling such a carefree, bubbling joy that’s absolutely contagious. Whenever I’m around Charlie, I can’t help but smile and forget about all of my worries and stress for the moment. I just enjoy my time with one of the biggest sources of pure happiness I know. Playing with Charlie and other dogs always makes me believe that things like animal-assisted therapy are so effective because of this — because people are able to grow from the special kind of positivity that only animals can provide.

In other news, in Chicago, all is going well so far with classes, research, and apartment life. I’m enjoying the sense of freedom again that comes with living the city. Being productive is a good feeling! Classes are going super fast since everything is sped up during the 8-week summer session. I’m really glad I read ahead because it makes staying on top of things a lot easier. It’s also much less stressful to balance schoolwork with working in the lab for about four hours every day. So far everything I have done has been very interesting! In my lab, the researchers are working on developing drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. It’s fascinating to me because it feels like for the first time I can finally see all the concepts I spent so long learning in organic chemistry put into real work in a medicinal chemistry lab. My supervisor is a graduate student named Emily who is so smart and patient — I’m learning a lot from her! As I’m slowly picking up the new techniques, I’m looking forward to getting some more independent lab work in the weeks to come. Between lab and school, lots of new challenges are coming, and I’m excited to meet them. It’s only been a couple weeks, but I’m also looking forward to going home for my mom’s birthday and 4th of July next week!

And of course, I know that I will have one big, happy friend waiting for me too. ☺

But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear / Finding myself making every possible mistake ♪♫♪

(New Soul – Yael Naim)

Are you afraid of the dark?

When I was 15 years old, I bought a ticket to a PG-13 movie and snuck into a rated R one with my friends instead. Not that memorable or delinquent of an offense. In fact, I’m nearly positive most other kids act way worse. And considering that’s probably the biggest thing on my conscious from my freshman year of high school, I’m really not that disappointed in myself. If I could go back to that moment now, though, I wouldn’t even walk into the theater. I would’ve stayed and watched Get Smart or whatever the heck we bought tickets for, because thanks to my immature actions, I’ll regret that decision as long as I live.

It was The Strangers. Even seeing those words typed terrifies me. I may have even mentioned to you before that that are few things in life that scares me as much as the characters from this film. The plot is based on true events and the characters and their masks scarred me. The worst part is – I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast, the storyline of a great book I read just last month, or my Facebook password. But for some reason, I can’t get a single part of this movie out of my head. 6 years later.

Not a day goes by that I’m not seeing them around a corner in my house or outside somewhere late at night. When I’m home alone, forget it…

But why does that scare me so much? I’ve only watched it one more time since, when my boyfriend begged me to watch it with him a year after the first time. Even though I spend 99% of the movie blocking my eyes, it doesn’t really make the situation any better. All this time has gone by, and I still expect to see one of the murderers standing in the shadows where I look up.

I really don’t know why this particular thing haunts me so much. I have seen quite a few scary movies and thrillers, and I never like them, but nothing has stuck with me like this one has. It has trumped every other one and remains in the back (and frequently, the front) of my mind to scare me every single day.

So why is it that I’m horrified and actually scarred by a scary movie but fail to be scared by things like the imminent future and other tangible, scary thoughts?

I’m not sure if it’s because I feel like I can handle whatever thing like that is thrown my way, but if one of the strangers appeared (or, God forbid, all three of them) in front of me, I’d just drop to the ground and cower, convulsing. I may not be the strongest, and I am certainly not the bravest, but I do feel comfortable facing many things. The movie characters just aren’t it.

I guess this whole ridiculous fear thing puts life into perspective and provides a life-lesson at the same time. Yes, things are scary, and it seems a little freaky that in less than a year from now, I will have to be a grown-up and will be done with college.

Yes, this story also attests to the fact that I, or any young teenager, for that matter, shouldn’t have been sneaking into a movie theater to see a movie that is too old for them, whether or not their parents approved. I can’t remember if my mom knew ahead of time or if I explained the entire plot of the movie to her the next day. Either way, I don’t think she knows how much it plagues me, and even if she did, she would tell me that I am the one who made the decision to watch. No one told me I had to, and no one held me down and forced me to watch.

So for now, I have to live with this (ridiculous) fear and face the facts that I’m the reason I have these fears. Maybe one day I’ll forget about it…doubtful, but certainly possible. Maybe when I become this long-anticipated “grown up” that everyone always mentions, life will move on and my goofy fears will be left behind. Until then, I’ll keep running back to my bed when I have to run to the bathroom late at night (sorry Mom & Dad), and you should take a look at the movie. Or don’t if that kind of thing would ruin you. If you want to be even more disturbed, check out the book, Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi. Much of The Strangers was based off murders conducted by the Manson clan. I’m gonna go turn off the light and very quickly hide my entire body under the covers until sunlight…………………………..

the Competitive Foot

The summer I was entering my sophomore year of high school, I was walking around Downtown Oak Park with a friend.  I came across an athletic shoe store called the Competitive Foot.  I had always played sports and thought maybe I’d check it out.  After walking around the store for a few minutes, I noticed there were a couple high school kids working there.  “What a great place to work!” I thought.  I didn’t have a job at that point but wanted to get one so I could have my own spending money. So, I asked for an application.

Thirteen years later, I am proud to say am still an employee.

The business started in 1974 and was the very FIRST athletic shoe store in Illinois!  The store was started by Tim and Tyna Eggert and has served loyal customers, athletes, and the community through numerous races, fun runs, and many other events for 4 decades!

They worked hard and now, it’s Tim and Tyna’s turn to relax and enjoy retirement.  The Competitive Foot will be crossing the finish line of its 40 year run this July.

I am honored to have been able to work for such a great institution for as long as I did.  Through high school, college, other jobs, and grad school, I never left and there is a reason for that.  I developed some great friendships, learned an incredible amount about so many things, and I truly feel lucky to have grown up in such a great place. And that’s just it.  I grew up there.  It’s home to me. It’s home to many.

I am sad.  An era is ending.  A chapter in my life is ending.  13 years.  13 amazing years.  But, a new chapter is beginning, for all of us at the CFoot.  We were all blessed with a really great boss who worked around everyone’s crazy schedules, sought you out for input on various things, and trusted your judgment.  We were a family.  We are a family.  I love my CFoot family and I will never forget the times we had.

We teamed up with Share Your Soles to collect used shoes for people suffering from natural disasters like the hurricane in Haiti and Hurricane Sandy.

We had sidewalk sales every summer, with tons of tables full of shoe bargains.  Playing music and having fun with employees.  It was always a good time.

And sponsored many, many races.

Most of all, I think I will miss my co-workers.  My family.  Thank you for being such great friends.  I know this isn’t good-bye and we will see each other often, but it will surely be different not working together.

It has been an honor and a privilege.

Thank you, Competitive Foot.

The acceptable uses of cheese

♪♫♪ And if you do, then you’re my friend, and if you don’t, then you’re my foe / And if you are a deity of any sort, then please don’t go~

And so, my one carefree month of summer has dwindled down, and now I must begin a much more scheduled lifestyle of classes and research work. How did the last four weeks happen so quickly and yet also slowly at the same time?! On the one hand, it feels like forever ago that I was wrapping up finals and closing up the residence halls with my fellow staff for the school year. On the other…where did all of my time go? It really does fly away when you’re not paying attention. But the truth is, I know where it all went…my four short weeks have been comprised of the following: learning guitar, baking dozens of desserts, two seasons of American Horror Story, lots of miscellaneous movies and books, season two of Orange is the New Black (binged in one weekend…oops), going to super fun Bodyjam dance classes at the YMCA, playing with the neighbor’s awesome dog, and last but sadly not least, getting quite out of shape by eating aforementioned baked goods.

So in truth, I can’t complain! I’ve lived up the last few weeks to the fullest by spending lots of time with loved ones, doing much that I hoped to do, and most importantly, taking a break from the constant rigidity of classes, meetings, and work. It was recharging to be able to wake up without my multiple phone alarms for once. Although, I do admit it was still hard for me to completely forget about school…I still ended up doing some preview work for my summer classes. I mean, it’s kind of hard not to feel guilty when I see my brother, busy grad student that he is, still hard at work and studying even after his classes have finished. And I’m sure many of my hardworking friends do the same. It’s hard to completely let go of responsibilities in the summer and just forget everything, but I don’t believe that’s not a bad thing. It’s good to look ahead and prepare yourself. At least for me, a lot of planning and micromanaging serves to ease my stress in the future, and I’m glad I spent some time studying too because now I feel even more ready for my summer courses, especially psychology. And I know I need all the preparation I can get…

But then the other day, it suddenly dawned upon me that with no meal plan, I would have to somehow cook and actually provide myself food this summer, and the sad truth is that the amount of recipes that I can “cook” would provide poor sustenance for any human being. I’m trying to scramble and learn some recipes…but it seems that most of my meals for the summer (other than eating out, which I want to limit to only weekends at the most) will consist of mostly oatmeal, salads, sandwiches, and soups, and maybe a little bit of rice or pasta. I want to eat as healthy as possible, which shouldn’t be too difficult since I’m limited in both finances and my abilities of food preparation. I mean, combined all together it’s hopefully enough for me to live on…right? Haha or perhaps I will scrape some time together to learn from my roommate Chevelle, who is quite adept at making her own meals. Now I really regret not spending more time in the kitchen with my mom when I was younger!

Now, in regards to food and eating, there is something else that I want to bring up. Whenever I mention this to my friends, I am usually met with harsh reprimands and disapproving looks of disbelief, accompanied by what’s-wrong-with-you?! remarks…but I am prepared to stand by it firmly, even if it ends longtime friendships:

I do not like cheese. At all.

Maybe this is insignificant to some people, but I happen to be good friends with some hardcore cheese lovers; and when I divulge my aversion to…curdled milk, it’s as if I just said I hate newborn puppies, or I made a personal attack on their core values in life. But I can’t help it. I don’t like cheese — I don’t like the taste, I don’t like how it looks, and perhaps most of all, I don’t like the awful, awful smell. The scent of cheese is enough to make my stomach turn over and make me nauseated. Even a single slice of cheese will taint the most perfect sandwich for me because somehow the rancid flavor permeates pass every other delicious ingredient to reach every one of my taste buds. If I ever find an unexpected dollop of cheese in my food — especially if it’s the absolute worst of them allblue cheese – it will certainly ruin my entire meal and leave my palate feeling remotely violated, even if I try to cleanse my mouth with something I love and cherish, like chocolate.

I know, I know…I’m being overdramatic. I’m being spoiled. This is Ms. First World Problems checking in right here. But this is not a topic to make light of with me! I will say it again and again: I detest cheese. And also, if you stop and think about it, do you realize just how many foods come with cheese? I have to always be on guard when I order food anywhere and everywhere lest I ever forget the critical phrase: “No cheese, please.”

Then, as always, come the inevitable comments…“But you like pizza, and that has LOADS of cheese.” Oh, I know, my friends. I am well aware. But pizza also has sauce, grease, toppings, crust, and loads of other delectable ingredients that make it holistically oh so delicious, and in a rare case like pizza, cheese can complement the taste. Indeed, there are a few rare exceptions to my no-cheese lifestyle. My only thought is that these are inexplicable anomalies that my taste buds have found a strange, unlikely coexistence with. Which is why through the years I have culminated a list of acceptable uses of cheese that are — at the most — tolerable to my tastes. And these are the only morsels of cheese that I have voluntarily allowed to pass through my lips without gagging. In my book, the acceptable uses of cheese are:

  • Pizza — as aforementioned, cheese does not hinder its deliciousness. Pizza is awesome, and makes Chicago, land of the deep dish, so wonderful to live in. But still…I would NEVER order that “extra cheese” option.
  • Grilled Cheese — PROVIDED THAT it is accompanied with warm, yummy tomato soup. They must come in a pair for me, or else the grilled cheese is still not appealing to me. Also I would just like to insert the fact that the grilled cheese at the caf kind of terrifies me.
  • Fondue — you know those Nicholas-Sparks-like-stories that feature that one special boy or girl you meet in your life who seems so completely wrong for you logically, and everyone doubts why you two would even be compatible, but when you two are together, it’s like magic and everything just somehow works and the world is beautiful? That is fondue to me. Oh, melted cheese…you just seem so wrong for me, and should be revolting…and yet you are so, so delicious. The Melting Pot is one of my favorite restaurants and if I could go every weekend, I would.
  • Macaroni and Cheese — it’s kind of a hit or miss. Sometimes it is delicious, and by sometimes, I mean when my mom makes it for me☺. Mysterious mac and cheese I’ve never tried before? No thank you…
  • Nachos with cheese — but let’s be real though. That “cheese” is so processed anyway it’s delicious because it’s horrible for you as junk food. But hey, melted cheese just somehow has a hold on my heart.

And so, with this list of acceptable uses of cheese, I have been living a largely cheese-less lifestyle with absolutely no regrets. I’ll have the hamburger please, no, not the cheeseburger. Cheese on my salad? Just say when? WHEN! Stop that cheese grater, no cheese please! String cheese as a snack? Um, I’ll just wait until dinner.

With that off my chest…I hope you enjoyed my light venting in this post! Haha just trying to preserve some vestiges of humor in my life before all the seriousness must kick back in. And cheese lovers, if we can’t be friends anymore…I understand. We got to stand by our principles, right?

Ne me quitte pas, mon cher / Ne me quitte pas ♪♫♪

(Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas) - Regina Spektor)

I’m getting too old for this…

I think everybody has different expectations of friendships, and even more so, they probably have different expectations for each friendship they have. It’s important that both parts of the friendship have equal expectations, though. Otherwise you’re not on the same page, which never seems to lead to anything good.

I don’t really know if there are categories or types of friendships, but if there are, I would definitely say that most of my friendships are very simple and “low-maintenance.” What I mean by that is that we simply enjoy one another’s company and spend time together. There isn’t drama, fighting, or whatever else is often associated with some friendships.

Of course, I want each of my friends to know that I am there for them whenever they need me. I feel like this is a given with friendships. By classifying my relationships as simple, I don’t mean to suggest that there is any lack of the things that should happen in a solid relationship.

It’s just that life is exhausting, and having friends helps to keep you sane. There’s no reason to complicate it or make anyone upset.

Am I crazy to just want to be able to spend time with my friends and laugh? To understand one another’s busy schedules and not take it personally? To not have to find any hidden meanings or determine the meaning of a “k”?

It’s times like these that I’m even more appreciate of dog best friends. There’s no drama with Bear. I come home, am loudly greeted and offered a plethora of toys, and when it’s time for bed, we’re cuddling up with a book and a rawhide. No muss, no fuss. I’d say it’s the ideal friendship.

I guess I just want to know why things can’t be simple. Friendship shouldn’t be yet another stressful part of life. Can’t we all just try saying what we mean and meaning what we say? It would make life a lot easier. Really.

Mirror, mirror

A positive body image is something all females want to achieve.  Or is being skinny really what females want to achieve?  For as long as I can remember, I have been confused about if my desire to be thin is healthy or harmful.  Is it healthy because I choose to eat salad all the time when I’d LOVE pizza?  Is it harmful because I look in the mirror and think I’m fat? It’s summertime and those unhealthy thoughts run rampant.

I think my problem with body image was created in my teens, as most body image issues are.  I read all the magazines girls love to read, portraying actresses and models and how they got their beach body.  “Here are 10 steps to getting a great body.”  Lie.  “(Insert name here) worked really hard to get those abs of steel.”  Not completely truthful.  “Top beach looks to get that guy you want.”  Ridiculous.

All of my life, I have been extremely active.  In grade school and the beginning of high school, I played sports, I ran races, and I never felt bad about my body.  That was the life.  For more than 10 years, I have been up and down on the scale, cried that nothing fits me right, and tried countless “diets.”  And I have to admit, at 28 years old…I’m not sure I’ll ever fully “love” my body.  Is that something that’s even achievable?

I feel bad for my boyfriend sometimes.  He can never say the right thing when I ask how I look.  He does know how to make me feel good.  But I’m sorry to say, that will never be enough.  At this age, my mind is already warped by what I’ve seen on TV, in magazines, and ESPECIALLY how clothes are made to fit.  I can no longer shop at certain stores because I do not have the body type that represents the clothes they sell for thin young girls.  Sure, I can go for a larger size.  That only makes you feel worse because those clothes weren’t designed for larger sizes.  And before you know it, you find yourself in the fitting room wondering where you went wrong.  You come out upset and your boyfriend asks why you never come out in the clothes so he can see and tell you how good you look.  You leave the store with nothing but a lower self-esteem.

I’m not a big girl.  I weigh about 140 lbs.  That’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Why do I feel like I am?  When my schedule freed up after practicum, I finally had time to work out.  I had a pretty rough and stressful winter and did not care much about my health.  I ate and drank whatever I wanted making excuses like “I’m stressed, I need this.”  It may have felt good at the time but it sure doesn’t feel good now. It’s been two months of working out 6 days a week, most weeks.  I am not nearly the size I thought I’d be.  And it’s not just losing lbs.  I want to look tone. I want to feel comfortable in shorts.  That’s all.  So, in that sense, that’s not unachievable and unhealthy.  It can be when you obsess over it like I do.

And I’m not alone.

The “thigh gap” controversy in a Target bathing suit ad is the root of the problem, I think.  Girls are shown that this is what you should look like. This is how you will fit in the clothes you want to wear.  It’s demeaning and it’s dangerous.  I will never have the thigh gap.  I’m OK with that.  I am making progress on feeling good and healthy about my body.  But it’s an uphill battle as I’m sure it is for many females.

I recently went into a clothing store and noticed that many of the tops are short, the crop top look. It’s cute if you can pull it off.  Maybe the look is to have your stomach showing, I don’t know.  And there is nothing wrong with wearing this style, but many girls don’t want to expose their belly.  What options do they have? I’m one of those girls.  I just don’t fit the body profile of high-waisted jeans and short tops.  Why is it all I see in stores?

I guess I’m just tired of being shown what I should look like, sold clothes that weren’t made for my body, and feeling bad that I’m not a size 2.

I’ve had it.

My mission for myself is to be as healthy as possible, physically and mentally.  I am going to continue working out daily because it makes me feel good and NOT because I’m trying to reach a certain weight.

I shouldn’t feel bad about myself after leaving a fitting room.  No one should.

Do you hear the people sing?

♪♫♪ Will you join in our crusade, who will be strong and stand with me? / Somewhere beyond the barricade, is there a world you long to see?

When I was around eight years old, I visited Taiwan with my mom and my older brother, who was around ten. I distantly remember this one time when we were perusing through an enormous mall bookstore that was filled with both Chinese and English books, movies, and CDs. I  eagerly pranced about finding my favorite Disney movies and the Harry Potter books in Chinese and entertained myself by trying to read their foreign titles aloud (always needing a little help with my mom of course). Then my mom picked up a DVD and I was puzzled, because I couldn’t seem to pronounce either the Chinese or the “English” name. To my embarrassment, my brother corrected my initial, pitiful guess.

“It’s not ‘less-miseraables,’ it’s pronounced lay miz-er-ahbit’s French,” he explained.

My mom, who recognized the name as 悲惨世界, was very excited to find the DVD, which was a recording of the 25th anniversary performance of the musical. Like nearly all of the other DVDs in the store, the English was Chinese subtitled. She was very familiar with the Hugo story and loved songs from the musical  as well, but none of us had seen the actual musical before. We bought the DVD (which I recall was a really good deal too!) and brought it all the way home to America, and we eventually watched the epic musical for the first time on our living room television.

Since I was in middle school, my mom and I have made our favorite bonding activity together into frequenting all kinds of musicals in Chicago. Throughout the years, we’ve collected several Playbills, including Wicked, West Side Story, Dirty Dancing, Mamma Mia, Cats, Fiddler on the Roof, and The Phantom of the Opera three times (I think…I kind of lost count on that one!). And this not to say either of us are theater buffs or anything like that at all. I couldn’t tell you what upcoming Broadway shows are being anticipated this year, or what shows won Tony awards last week, or who the biggest stars-to-follow are…no, we are just casual theater-goers who love seeing a show with great actors and phenomenal music we know and love. Mainly, I just follow the Broadway in Chicago website and whenever a new show is coming that I recognize and think we would enjoy comes up, my mom and I buy tickets and plan our outing. We are also typically pretty frugal about buying our seats, often sitting way in the nosebleed sections — but it never matters how high up or far away from the stage we are. We always both have a fantastic time watching a fantastic performance. And now, after all these years without seeing one of our favorites, we can finally add Les Misérables to our long list of musicals!

Last week, my mom and I watched the Drury Lane production of Les Misérables in Oakbrook. A few weeks ago, we managed to buy tickets for the very last day of performances. We had never been to Drury Lane before to see a show and didn’t really know what to expect. It took us a little bit of searching on the winding roads to locate the theater, but we made it just in time. The theater is expectedly quite a bit smaller than the theaters in Chicago, but it was certainly no less beautiful inside with lovely chandeliers lining the inside ceiling and an elaborate set. The backdrop had computer-generated backgrounds that actually enhanced the experience. I wished that I could pull out my phone and snap pictures, but I knew indoor photography was strictly forbidden! As we walked down to find out seat, I was struck by how cozy the theater seemed because everyone seemed packed together without being too crowded. There were no balcony seating, just a main floor, and it looked like every single seat was sold out. In only a few minutes, the lights dimmed, cell phones were silenced around us, and the thunderous music began.

Despite buying our tickets a little bit late, we managed to get two fantastic seats! We were in the 5th row up from the front! I even got up before the show started to peer down into the live orchestra pit. It was my first time being so close to the stage and seeing everything so close; I also think that the acoustics and build of the theater helped as well. We were also lucky to find out that Ivan Rutherford, a seasoned Broadway actor, was playing the lead role of Jean Valjean! According to the Playbill, Rutherford has won multiple awards for that role and has performed as Valjean over 2000 times on Broadway. It was truly a treat being able to see him so close. However, my mom was even more enamored by Quentin Earl Darrington, the actor who played the antagonistic policeman Javert, because he had such a timbre, bellowing voice! It really made numbers like Stars and Javert’s Suicide especially thrilling to listen to. The Confrontation actually turned out to be my mom’s favorite part because of how intense the chemistry between Valjean and Javert was…truly electrical!

However, my favorite part, which has been my favorite from both watching the concert musical, the 2012 movie, and now this live production, still remains the scene with the students planning their revolution against the French monarchy! My favorite character has always been Enjolras, the leader of the students who incites them all to rally for justice, and it was so exciting to be able to watch that happen live. The set did a marvelous job of building too, especially with the student’s barricade made from miscellaneous tables, chairs, and barrels stuck together. My favorite song from the whole show is probably Do You Hear The People Sing and any variant of the melody, when all of the men of the rebellion sing together of their resolve to fight for the future. It’s such a motivating melody and always gets my blood pumping…actually, sometimes I even listen to the Broadway recording of it while I’m running or working out. And of course, the tragic story of Eponine and her unrequited love is always captured so beautifully by On My Own, and Christina Nieves really did her character some heartbreaking justice. Another crowd favorite was the adorable little boy Gavroche, whose brave contributions to the rebellion and witty quips of melody were always met with applause!

Whenever the cast sang together, it was equally thunderous and marvelous. The Act I closer One Day More got everyone excited, and when the lights came up for intermission, I couldn’t wait for the second half. The finale of the musical was also phenomenal, first with the spine-tingling, beautiful message from the Fantine-Eponine-Valjean melody (“and remember the truth that once was spoken: to love another person is to see the face of God!”) which ever so slowly crescendos into the reprise of Do You Hear The People Sing as the fallen men of the rebellion once again gather to sing in solidarity. The entire audience was moved to their feet by the last note and the standing ovation continued as the cast bowed over and over again.

As we exited, there was a huge crowd gathered around Ivan Rutherford, who was signing some autographs and selling CDs in the lobby. Although my mom and I avoided the long line, we did pick up some more information about upcoming shows in the theater. All around us people buzzed about how spectacular the show was. And so, my mom and I can now finally cross Les Misérables off our musical bucket list to watch, and I am so happy we did so by coming to the Drury Lane production. Even though we had no idea what to expect, we definitely hope to return here again to watch some more shows to come. It’s a shame we didn’t check out this theater many years earlier!

Do you hear the people sing, say do you hear the distant drums? / It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes! ♪♫♪ 

(Finale from Les Misérables - Claude-Michel Schönberg)

The Un-Bucket List

Everyone I know is always making a list of things they want to do before something ends, whether it’s the summer, college, a study abroad program or even life. I have done the same thing, too, even though mine is usually just a giant mental note. But wouldn’t it be just as fun to make a list of things we don’t ever want to do? Like things we hope never happen to us, or things we plan on avoiding at all costs? I definitely thought so…

HOLLY’S UN-BUCKET LIST

  1. Come within 50 miles of a killer whale.
  2. Try calamari again.
  3. Break a bone or need to be hospitalized for an emergency.
  4. Have no pets.
  5. Be fired from a job.
  6. Live far away from my immediate family.
  7. Get in a car accident.
  8. Create roadkill.
  9. Eat dessert that isn’t chocolate.
  10. Have to have another surgery.
  11. Get more cavities.
  12. Watch the White Sox continue to play like the Cubs.
  13. Have no plan.
  14. Have no success finding another internship.
  15. Sleepwalk.
  16. Touch a cactus.
  17. Skydive or bungee jump.
  18. Ride any type of roller coaster.
  19. Get a ticket.
  20. Wake up late on the day of an important event.
  21. Have outfits that don’t have a pair of matching shoes.
  22. Perpetually lose sleep or feel constantly exhausted.
  23. Get another papercut.
  24. Live somewhere where it’s never summer.
  25. Be conflicted about what I want to do with my life.
  26. Get stung by a bee or wasp.
  27. Do my taxes or pay bills.
  28. Get yelled at for no reason.
  29. Develop a severe allergy.
  30. Lose all time for reading.

There’s my list; it’s definitely ever-growing. I’m sure that if you took some time to think about it, there’s probably a lot of things that you never want to do that you are just as passionate about not doing as there are things that you are passionate about doing. It’s kind of nice to think about them this way because it helps lead me on the right path. I can look at this list next time I’m in the desert and remember that I don’t want to touch a cactus….

….But all jokes aside, I don’t see why this isn’t as important to consider as are the things you want to make sure you do. Take some time to think about it. You might come to find you have some irrational fears just like me, or you may read between the lines and see exactly what you want to do!

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