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!

‘Til next season

Well, the Blackhawks are out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Sigh.

We were so pumped after Game 6.  My boyfriend and I went to Union Park Bar and Grill to watch it because it was an official Hawks bar.  It was cool because every time the Hawks scored, the owner would put play our goal anthem, Chelsea Dagger, like they do when you’re at the United Center.  We were on our feet.  Not one person was sitting in the place.  The game was great, especially because we ended up winning in the end to force a Game 7.  It was a great night. Then…we were to wait until Sunday for Game 7.

Then Sunday, June 1st came….Game 7.  We had the advantage because it was at home and the Hawks record with Game 7′s was pretty clutch.  I think everyone was a bit nervous but when we scored two goals right in the beginning, we felt a bit more confident.  Then the Kings came back.  Then we came back.  Then the Kings tied it.  Then we scored.  Then they scored.  Then….OT happened.

SIGH. AGAIN.

I’ll never forget the 2013 playoffs.  We made it to the Stanley Cup final and we were up in the series.  Everything seemed to fit into place.  They ended up winning the Stanley Cup on my birthday.  You can’t get any better than that.  I’m not married yet so I can say this….. that.was.the.best.day.of.my.entire.life.

The intermission in Game 7 between period 3 and OT was probably the most nerve racking 15 minutes ever.  I thought, “We got this! Right? They have this? Anyone? Anyone?”  I didn’t know what to do so I started brushing my teeth.  Yeah..weird I know.  I sat in the living room with everyone as I was brushing my teeth as OT started.  Everyone sat in disbelief when the Kings winning goal went off of our own defenseman into our net.  Crushing. Totally crushing.

I barely slept that night.  I couldn’t believe it.  As the mocking text messages and Facebook posts started pouring in, “Are you in mourning?” and “Are you taking a bereavement day?” I decided to take a day off of Facebook and try to mend my wounds.  I was not only a zombie the next day, but I was a zombie with a broken heart.  Trying to see the silver lining in all of this (if there even WAS a silver lining), I woke up with a sense of clarity a few days later.  I am not ashamed of my Hawks.  Yes, they made some mistakes.  Things need to be tweaked.  Seabrook and Sharp may be on the chopping block and I used to hate when anyone from our 2010 championship was traded.  But now I know changes need to be made.  Our defense needs to get shaken up, that’s for sure.  I don’t blame Corey Crawford.  He CAN be inconsistent, but when he’s on, he’s REALLY ON.  They will never get rid of Toews or Kane so we have that to count on.

I think the silver lining in all of this is….we have more recovery time until next season.  And i’ll be waiting.  Go Blackhawks!!!.

Old friends on ink and print

Save me, I can’t be saved, I won’t / I’m a president’s son, I don’t need no love

One of the most unbearable, cringeworthy activities for me to do has always been to read my own writing — especially if it was written a long time ago. To my older eyes, my writing always seems immature, foolish, silly, and downright awful at times. I can’t read it like I would any other piece of writing because I’m constantly evaluating it and finding faults with it (and if you follow my blog…why yes, psych majors, I realize I might have a self-esteem issue to resolve haha). And I can usually read no more than a few pages before I put it all down. Usually I tend to avoid this situation at all by letting my old writing sit in a dark room somewhere just gathering dust so that it’s never exposed to the world…

But unfortunately it’s impossible for me not to come across all my old writings when I’m cleaning out years and years worth of junk from my house’s study room, a Herculean task that my mother has been asking me to do for, um, a few years….oops. With some extra time on my hands, I finally took it upon myself to do so, and I began by digging through the piles of old textbooks and notebooks. It wasn’t long before the entire table and floor were covered with a plethora of half-filled, sloppy journals and dozens of weathered, ancient school notebooks that have definitely seen better days. It’s very funny to look back and see my notebooks, homework, and projects from 11th grade AP Human Geography, or AP Calculus, or 9th grade world history, or even 6th grade English class. And it doesn’t take much rummaging to find almost every single essay, in-class or otherwise, I have written for my English classes grades 9-12. Truly, I could have my own Hoarders episode featuring all of the clutter I have accumulated in the past eight years.

It was pretty easy to decide which textbooks to donate/attempt to sell but unfortunately for my wallet, I found most of them were probably very out of date or used (review books for the SAT anyone?). Even though part of me unbelievably STILL wants to keep them as some sort of touchstone or token of memory of whatever class I used them in, I know my mom will not stand for my junk to be rearranged instead of cleaned out! I plan on donating some of the better ones to the local Naperville library because I notice they’re selling old books all the time, but I think some of the AP review books might be salvageable for reuse. Maybe I’ll try to see if some neighborhood kids (who really aren’t kids anymore like I remember) would like to have them. Essentially, getting rid of the textbooks was definitely less concerning than handling the notebooks.

As I picked through which notebooks to keep and which to recycle, I thumbed through the pages and skimmed the words of Sarah age 10-18. Only some of it was legible, much of it was nonsensical, and all of it was nostalgic…and awful to read! While it was interesting to recall certain events or people that I journaled about, even reading the words that I wrote in order to seem like a good writer to myself kind of made me want to crawl in a hole. But at the same time, I could not bring myself to throw even the worst of the journals away, despite knowing that it is extremely unlikely that I would ever open the covers and read it again. And I most certainly do not want anyone to ever come across it and read it either! But just flipping through the pages felt a little bit like stepping into a time machine and meeting younger versions of myself again, hearing my old voices in my head…I ended up spending the entire day perusing though my formative years in scribbled, incomplete journals and half-finished manga and puppy sketches. Looking back I wish I had kept the diligence to actually finish journals and notebooks that I started before starting a new one…but I have always been in love with beautiful journals and want to use a new one! Thinking back to the number of journals I used to buy at Barnes and Noble…it kind of left me with dozens of journals that are a little too used to be donated, but also still empty enough to feel like a waste…

But within all of the half-finished notebooks, I have countless half-started stories that were born from dream journals as well as more organized, fleshed-out stories whose characters sadly never saw an ending. It felt like visiting old friends and becoming reacquainted — it just so happened that I made these friends up in my head. But their dialogue and the “clever” characterization (spoiler alert: hardly any of them are clever) of them were so familiar to me, and I recalled all of the times I had spent class time daydreaming their stories and backgrounds. I pondered briefly over giving them a resolution now by picking up where my writing before left off, but there are far too many stories, and at the same time it also feels impossible because I am not the same writer I was those years ago when their stories began. Elementary school Sarah mostly wrote about anthropomorphic hamsters (probably inspired by Hamtaro — anyone remember those adorable hamsters with eyes that were way too big for their head on Toonami?) and video game/reality crossovers. In middle school, it seems I even had a fanfiction-type phase where I wrote stories that starred characters from my favorite fiction novels, including Animorphs, the Alex Rider novels by Anthony Horowitz, and a slew of Kenneth Oppel novels. While some of these older stories might be endearing, I think my creative writing in high school was nearly unbearable…I’m sorely tempted to dispose of it all! A good bulk of it comes from a Creative Writing course I took my sophomore year of high school, and I must say, a lot of it seems to embody the worst of moody, angsty teenage writing that is cringeworthy indeed. Not that the class was bad! It was actually probably one of my favorite classes I ever took in high school, and I miss the journal times where we would all receive a random prompt to write about without stopping for 10 minutes straight. A lot of gibberish may have come from that, but also a lot of memories and vented ideas as well. In the end, I decided not to throw the creative writing away (what if one day I really do want to reread it?) but I did box it away carefully to keep it hidden from the world.

Reading all of these writings made me feel as if I was reintroducing myself to old friends that I made up in my head and long forgotten and then remembered again, and I can’t stop thinking about all the ongoing stories and plotlines I had circulating in my mind throughout middle school and high school. Why didn’t I write more of them down? Why wasn’t I more careful in preserving them? What about the details that I can’t remember, even now, after trying to refresh my memory?

So today I picked up yet another new journal — but this one I’m determined to finish from cover to cover. Even though I’ve taken to typing of most of my thoughts on my laptop because it seems faster, I want to bring back my old habit of freewriting for the sake of writing and just feeling my pen on the paper moving nonstop, even if I’m only producing more drivel that I will undoubtedly cringe to read in the future. Even if none of it’s “good writing”, it’ll be fun to see how my style has evolved in the past few years and just let my imagination run absolutely wild again.

And who knows, maybe 25-year-old Sarah might find it interesting to read when cleaning time comes around again.

What a lovely day, yeah we won the war, may have lost a million men but we got a million more / All the people, they say

(People Say - Portugal the Man)

Meet me in St. Louis

It happened. We survived AND had a great time. And I’m still suffering from post-vacation depression all these days later…pretty sure that’s a sign of a great vacation.

We left for St. Louis Saturday morning at 4:30am, but my trip started much earlier. Around 10:30pm Friday night, I finished packing everything I needed for the trip and headed over to Kevin’s for the night. He, of course, hadn’t even started packing yet…so typical. By about 12:30am, he looked as ready as he ever would and headed to bed. From what I could see, everything was ready to go-directions to every place we planned to go were in order and I didn’t see any room for problems or things that would make me regret agreeing to this so last minute.

When the alarm went off just 3 hours later, I felt like it was the school year all over again. I’ve been getting much more sleep this summer, so the 3 hour “nap” was a bit of a nightmare. Regardless, I got up, got dressed and got myself not only ready for the 5-hour car ride we faced, but also for the first day of vacation, as we planned to immediately head off to a destination upon arrival in St. Louis. I was ready to go at 4:00am, as I’d planned for, and when Kevin couldn’t get up until 3:50am, I knew we were in trouble. 40 minutes, a ripped contact and a meltdown later, we were loading up the car and trying not to murder one another before the trip even began. Things definitely started to look up as we were the only car driving through town and stopped at McDonalds for my absolute favorite breakfast burritos and coffee. We were then on the way.

The ride to St. Louis was nice and uneventful. We saw lots of cows and horses, which was totally hilarious. Kevin hated finding out that all of his radio stations didn’t travel with us and were instead replaced by countless country stations. At 9am, we were driving past St. Louis and got our first glimpse at the Arch and our hotel, which was so close it was almost kissing the Arch. We arrived at our first stop, Grant’s Farm, at just about 9:30am.

This place was awesome. I loved every minute of it and honestly wish I was there right now. It was so funny and so totally like nothing you would ever experience in Illinois. To get to the farm, everyone has to ride on a tram with open sides. It doesn’t just drive you to the farm, though-it takes you through miles of expansive land with crazy animals on it…

We were almost charged by a bison who apparently didn’t like us on his lawn, elk were inches away from my skull, and other animals I’ve only ever seen on t.v. wandered around so close to us that we couldn’t believe it. When it was time to get off the tram, we  arrived in an even funnier and stranger place. Grant’s Farm was complete with a baby goat petting zoo where you could feed them milk from bottles, acres for the Clydesdales (coolest thing ever!) an elephant show, a crazy kangaroo that stood on its tail,a camel that caught food people would throw in its mouth, and free samples of Anheuser-Busch alcohol. It was definitely something we’d never experienced before, but everything was so cool. It was a really great way to start off the vacation. From there, we wandered across the street to check out Ulysses Grant’s house and farm (hence the whole Grant’s Farm thing on the property…)

After this, we headed back to the heart of the city to check into our hotel and figure out where we were going to watch the Blackhawks game. After a horrible time trying to figure out how to use the parking tower (and trying to figure out how we would remember that our car was parked 6 floors underground…[what the heck, St. Louis]) we checked in and enjoyed the fantastic view of the Arch and the Mississippi River from out hotel room. We went for a walk around the city and were lucky enough to find out that one of the many, MANY restaurants in our hotel was a sports bar with a million t.v.s We were fortunate enough to get a waitress who was more than willing to put the game on for us. Despite the fact that the Cardinals were playing the Reds, eventually everyone at the restaurant had their eyes on our t.v. and were cheering for the Hawks. The next thing we knew, the Hawks were on every channel, and these potentially Blues fans were cheering. I couldn’t believe it! Definitely earned them all some serious brownie points in my book. 

The next day, we were off to Purina Farms. Not to be confused with Grant’s Farm…totally different things, but both really awesome. This place was massive, and we got to see two different dog shows. The dogs did tons of awesome tricks and were really talented. We were also lucky enough to come on a weekend where people from all over the country had brought their dogs for agility course competitions as well as obedience training and speed races. There was also a barn with even more animals to pet! I was in heaven for a second day in a row.

We finished at Purina Farms much earlier than we did at Grant’s Farm the day before, so we headed back to our hotel to explore. Of course, we needed to stop at Jack in the Box, since it’s my dad’s favorite fast food place and we don’t have any around home, so we needed to try it and, of course, send my dad pictures. After our delicious stop, we headed back to St. Louis and our awesome hotel.

We sort of planned to go to the Arch on our final day (Monday) before we checked out of the hotel at noon, but we thought we’d go give it a try, since it was about 4:00pm. We waited for nearly half an hour in an outdoor line that led you through security to enter the underground area of the Arch. Here, you can buy tickets for the various things offered about the Arch, go through a museum, shop at multiple gift shops, watch historical informational films, or board the pod to go up to the Arch. We got in line right away to buy our tickets, but our trip wasn’t scheduled until 6:50p.m. We went and looked through the museum, read everything, and wandered through one of the gift shops before it was our turn to get in line. We waited another 45 minutes in line after 6:50…luckily we had already eaten and didn’t have any plans for the night. When it was finally our turn to head up, we were put into this horribly claustrophobic “pod”, which was no taller than 4 feet and could comfortably carry 1 person on their 4-minute journey up to the top; however, they put 4 people into the pod. The journey felt much more like a ferris wheel than an elevator or anything else…it rocked and swayed side to side, all the while traveling up 630 feet. I was having some sort of anxiety attack, but I kept quiet and calm for the sake of the poor strangers who were loaded into the pod with us. I couldn’t wait to get out and be at the top; little did I know, it wasn’t much better at there.

The ceiling was still so low in the Arch itself, and with 12 tiny windows on each side-12 facing St. Louis, 12 facing the Mississippi River- I wasn’t any less claustrophobic. I couldn’t wait to get down, but I was also terrified of riding the pods back down. After countless pictures and enough time to justify getting the heck out of there, we boarded another pod and made the journey back down. I have never been happier to be back on solid ground. It was a good thing we didn’t save the Arch until Monday, because we wound up spending a grand total of 6 hours on that…It was very beautiful at the top, though…

After finishing exploring around the Arch, we headed back for our car to explore even more by vehicle, and to do so while eating Imo’s pizza. We heard this was a very big part of St. Louis culture, and we couldn’t miss out on trying it. It was really good, but absolutely nothing like Chicago style pizza. Cute try, though, STL….

Bacon, sausage, green peppers, onion...Kevin's dream come true!

We had a really nice anniversary (Sunday). On Monday, our last day, we packed up, headed out, checked out the beautiful and historical capital building and stopped at a drive-thru zoo to check out even more bison, elk and deer. We didn’t see too many, but we did come across a giant herd of elk sitting in the parking lot. It made for a really interesting final stop.
Our ride home was complete with a torrential downpour…I guess that was Illinois’ way of welcoming us back. We got home after 7pm on Monday, just in time to watch the Blackhawks lose…and I slept like a baby until I had to wake up at 6:30a.m. for work. That wasn’t easy…

I have yet to unpack, but I wish instead that I was just packing for another vacation. It only took 7 years, but we went on a vacation together and had a great time. I can’t wait for the next one. It’s kind of addicting…

Gillian Flynn novels — possible spoiler alert

One thing that is great about having free time is that I can read as much as I want…for fun. The first three books on my summer reading list were all Gillian Flynn novels. I finished them in two weeks. They are page-turners to say the least!

Gone Girl Synopsis: I had heard a lot about this book and I decided to make it my first book.  Each chapter is spoken from a different character, mostly going back and forth between Amy Elliot (Dunne)’s diary and her husband Nick Dunne. Gone Girl is about Amy Elliot Dunne and the rocky relationship with her husband, Nick.  They met in New York living as writers.  She writes personality quizzes and he writes for a magazine.  Due do his mother getting sick and eventually passing away, they move to Missouri.  On their fifth wedding anniversary, she disappears.  Nick goes through a wave of emotions while he embarks on Amy’s previously planned anniversary treasure hunt, hoping it will give him clues to her disappearance.  But as time goes on, faith and trust begin to disintegrate from his family and the community making him a prime suspect in her disappearance and assumed murder. His apparent affair with a former student does not help his innocence.

I read this book in two days.  Page after page, trying to find out what happened to Amy.  When you find out, it all starts making sense.  Is she alive? Is she dead? I admit, I think I was a bit disappointed in the end but it made me understand this couple’s toxic relationship was what made them thrive.

Real-life realization: I’m so incredibly grateful that my boyfriend isn’t crazy.

Since I loved it so much, I decided to get another book by Gillian Flynn.

Dark Places Synopsis: The main character, Libby Day, talks about her family being murdered when she was just a mere 7 years old.  Her mother, along with her two sisters, lost their lives in a supposed “Satanic ritual sacrifice,” while she survived while hiding.  Her brother also survived, with no alibi, making him the prime suspect because people thought he was troubled.  Ben, her brother, was found guilty and sent to prison for 25 years for a crime she isn’t sure he committed.  A group of people obsessed with notorious crimes try to convince her he was not the murderer.  Libby takes on their requests to investigate what may have really happened on that fateful day.

This book is also a page-turner.  Throughout most of the book, I was pretty sure he had nothing to do with the murders but all of the clues pointed to him.  Towards the end, I began to have my own suspicions and was pleasantly surprised.

Real-life realization: My brother’s actions, yet sometimes questionable, would never include Satanic rituals of any sort.

The only other book by Gillian Flynn is Sharp Objects.

Sharp Objects Synopsis: A reporter by the name of Camille Preaker is assigned to something that no one who escapes from a difficult childhood cares to face, returning to her hometown to cover the murders of two little girls.  Camille has a very difficult relationship with her controlling, obsessive mother and has to immerse herself in her childhood memories at home where her mother has a new husband and a daughter (Camille’s half-sister) that she barely knows.  Camille talks to old friends, old enemies, and meets a new young detective eventually reopening the closed doors to her troubled past to solve the crimes of the two young girls.

Great read! My gut feeling from the beginning turned out to be partially correct.  I enjoyed this character because she seemed so real.  Dissecting her own troubles opened her eyes to find a link between her childhood and these young deceased girls.

Real-life realization: My mom is not nearly as crazy as Camille’s mom. Phew!

Loved the first three books on my summer reading list and I’m looking to start the next.  Stay tuned!

 

Let me serenade you in a lab…(Am I endearing yet?)

♪♫♪ If you were here we’d laugh about their vacant stares, but right now my time is theirs…

Ever since summer started, I’ve felt a little direction-less because there seems a disconnection between what I know what I have to get done and what I actually want to do. I’ve been spending a lot of time lounging about doing semi-productive things that schooltime-Sarah probably could have accomplished much quicker…but even so, I must say that I have gotten a lot of things done that have been on my “bucket list” for quite some time.

In terms of “business” — that is, school, work next year, other important things — one big thing I’m happy about is that I got a research position! That’s kind of a big deal for me because it’ll be my first real research done here at UIC (I participated in summer research at Northwestern a couple years ago but I haven’t done any projects since then.) Although the lab work I did in the past, which revolved around protein expression in prostate cancer, was very interesting, I didn’t always find myself enthused to go to work every day. My time there was also very short, so perhaps I also didn’t feel as involved. As a result, I wouldn’t say that I’ve spent two years avoiding research per say, but I didn’t actually seek it out actively…perhaps because internally I was never really sure working in a lab is something I would want to pursue. I’ve consulted with my wonderful Honors College Faculty Fellow, former professor, and confidante Dr. Cohen (from the GPPA Medicine program) about my dilemma before, and she has always been reassuring to me that research is certainly not something I must do if it doesn’t interest me. But there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to forego research at one of the best research institutions in the country when there are literally opportunities at my fingertips all the time. I spent the last few weeks of school applying and applying for a summer position (often not getting a response at all…which is expected but still disheartening at times), and it was relieving to finally get the emails for some interviews. About a week ago, I got the news that I got a position with UICentre! I headed back into the city last week and already met the graduate student that I will work with this summer and she was very friendly and answered all of my questions and concerns. However, I can’t help but still be quite nervous because during the interview, it was made very clear that if I didn’t do a good job during the first month (which serves as a trial period or sorts) I would be terminated from the position.

“Nothing personal or anything,” explained the professor. “But lab work is just not for everyone.”

However, I’m going to bet on myself this summer and hope that I will be able to be a careful enough person in the lab…I know lab work may not be for me, though. I guess I will find out if it’s something I am competent in as well as something I would like to do this. As for what exactly I’ll be doing in the lab…I confess I’m not quite certain yet! Not very much was explained to me, but I was assured training would come. Here’s hoping that the first month goes well!

Now business aside…all the fun I’ve been having! It might be silly because I spend almost every day at home – I share a car with others in my family so don’t have access much – and often alone because my parents are work and my brother is at the library studying for his own exams. And yet I have been enjoying myself immensely by throwing myself into guitar. I’m afraid I kind of neglected my guitar throughout the school year even though it sat in my room all year long. I would always tinker on my keyboard instead because the piano is much more familiar to me. When I did pick up the guitar, I could barely struggle through a Youtube tutorial. A year ago, last summer, I unearthed my father’s old guitar which had been in the basement for 20+ years and I immediately tried to learn it. Sadly, even after taking a group guitar course all summer, I lacked the drive and time to get really good at the open chords. I could strum and pluck some music in front of me, but that was it.

Well, no more nonsense! I have started seriously practicing at last, and after strumming day after day until my fingers went from callused to numb, I can finally manage a few songs! I feel much more confident about playing several important chords now (namely C, G, D, Dm, E, Em, F, A, Am, and Bm), and luckily, the wonderful thing about guitar is that for many songs you only need to know 4 or 5 chords! Of course, the much more difficult chords are still, literally, beyond my reach (can my fingers even bend that way?!? Ugh, barre chords…) so I have a lot to learn. But just these two weeks have been a huge improvement! However, I am still working on getting my strumming patterns smooth by switching chords faster.

If anyone is looking to start guitar, I suggest finding some easy songs you know by heart and could sing in your sleep and just strum to the melody in your head. I found that to be the easiest way for me to be motivated to practice and get the chord progressions to happen more smoothly. For me…and this might be embarrassing…that song happened to be Ours by Taylor Swift, haha, much to my brother’s disdain for having to listen to me all day. But the song, like many T Swift tunes, only uses 4 chords so it was perfect to start with! After managing that, I started searching online for more and more songs and tutorials that I was familiar with. Now, I cannot stress enough that I really do not have a good singing voice…at all…but I can’t help but love it! So it’s been such fun for me to finally provide my own “backup” and sing to it! (I’ve never been coordinated enough to sing and play piano at the same time, ha.) Lately, my mom keeps coming into my room late at night as I’m still strumming and singing away, asking if I’m about to hold a concert or something haha. And I reply, nope – just having a grand time on my own.

Maybe one day if I’m feeling REALLY REALLY  brave I’ll post something on Youtube or something…but I never imagined I would be able to do something like that. I’ve always been very private when it comes to singing because I’m so self-conscious. But who knows? If I do though, I’ll be sure to keep you all posted and link it here too :)

Until I go back to school on June 15th for summer classes, I’ve got to enjoy the time I have…because then it’ll be back to a rush of classes, studying, and research every day. In the meantime, I’ll probably still keep strumming some old Swiftie favorites ♥

People throw rocks at things that shine / And life makes love look hard / The stakes are high, the water’s rough, but this love is ours ♪♫♪

(Ours by Taylor Swift)

Arch you surprised I’m not freaking out?!

Is it just me, or did fortune cookies become absolutely terrible? I mean the fortune, not the cookie; that much seems to still be on par, although I don’t really like the cookie part anyways…just a personal dislike. At any rate, for the last few years, my fortunes haven’t seemed so much of fortunes but more statements telling me what kind of person or some life lesson. Every time I open one, I get excited to see what it’s going to say, but then I’m immediately disappointed because it’s either a repeat fortune I’ve gotten before or something that doesn’t at all seem to suggest anything about my future. Is it that fortune cookie texts have changed, or have I become obsessed with knowing what’s coming in my near future?

I’ve always liked to plan out what’s going on in my life for both the immediate future as well as the not-so-near future. I feel like it calms me, keeps me on track and gives me something to strive for. While I always have very distinct and specific plans and expectations, the means to which I’ve gone about determining that they are the correct choice haven’t always been traditional; my share of fortune cookie, Magic 8 ball and “signs” have helped me along the way. I’ve looked to these measures to decide whether or not I should do something or what to focus on.

Sometimes, especially during the school year, I tediously begin writing down what I will be doing for the week, hour-by-hour. This is absolutely outrageous, and I’m fully aware of that. I also realize that more than 99% of the time, I don’t wind up following the schedule by any means. Something will come up or I will realize the impossibility of completing all of the tasks I have left myself to complete in a given amount of time and I wind up straying away from the schedule. I’ll also make general lists of things I’d like to accomplish in a day or week, or both. It can get scary how many different lists I may need to feel less anxious about something. The moment I feel ideas running through my mind, I have to start writing them down for fear I will lose even just one of them.

In the grand scheme of things, I know I need to stop looking to my fortune to help me decide what to do, especially when one of my sister’s last fortune cookies told her that “a tub and a rub will make our day.” I don’t know that I need to slow down on planning my future because that has really only brought about positive things to my life. But I do think there is a step I can take in the right direction; I need to learn how to be more spontaneous.

I do not like not being prepared for something, like feeling like I don’t have the right outfit on to be somewhere. That’s just an example, but I honestly don’t enjoy going somewhere that I haven’t had enough time to sufficiently mentally prepare for, or something to that nature. I’m certainly not introverted, and this has nothing to do with social interactions. Instead, I just like to get pumped up for doing something, even if it’s just going to the grocery store. I want to know at least some hours before that I am going. If I wind up going somewhere without having a little bit of time to think about it, I feel slightly off. I don’t mean to sound crazy, but maybe I am. Maybe the lack of spontaneity and the incessant need to plan, organize and prioritize has gone to my head. I’m working on it, I swear.

My first step in the strides to spontaneity is more like a leap or lunge for me, really. I have officially agreed to travel to St. Louis with my boyfriend for our 7 year anniversary this weekend. We’ve never gone on a vacation alone, and the fact that we were planning it two days in advance is so incredibly stressful to me. We managed to reserve a hotel room and have picked out what we will be doing each day, but I’m not going to be like those people in the movies (or on Duck Dynasty) who make an itinerary and everyone on the trip wants to destroy them and their schedule. I’m just going to make sure we’re prepared with directions and whatever else we may need. The rest is up in the air. The trip itself sprung up on me, and I’m trying to step out of my comfort zone and have fun. The less stress, the better. It is supposed to be a vacation, after all. And a celebratory one at that.

Hopefully from now on I can be ever so slightly more spontaneous and less judgmental of fortune cookies. Who am I kidding, I’ll probably go ask a cootie catcher if we picked the right hotel…

UIC medical

The past few weeks have been a bit stressful filled with doctor visits to UIC Family Medicine Center.  I have never really had any health issues my entire life except for being diagnosed with “sports induced” asthma in my early twenties (whatever that is…).  During my yearly visit to my female clinic, the nurse practitioner who saw me noticed a new mole that I had noticed maybe in the last year or so.  I have tons of birth/beauty marks all over my skin, but they aren’t raised on the skin so I was a bit concerned when this new one popped up and was clearly raised.  They say if something new pops up, that you should always get it checked out to be safe.  My nurse practitioner reminded me of this and also referred me to the UIC Dermatology Center.  I figured I’d give them a call since I am lucky enough to have CampusCare and can easily have it figured out.  That was my initial thought.  Then as I was leaving, she caught me in the hallway and asked me to sign the referral and make sure she covered it all with me.  Well, I tucked the referral in my purse and decided I’d read it on the train.  When I took it out later, I saw the info she already gave me and up in the corner it asks to specify the reason for referral.  It said “Serious/Potential Malignancy.”  WHAT?  THAT part was not mentioned to me.  Or maybe she implied it when she said I needed to get it looked at.  Or maybe there was no other option available to describe the situation.  I’m not exactly sure but as I was on the Green Line heading west, I definitely was freaking out.  I was heading to work and had to somewhat compose myself.

When I first called the Dermatology Center, they said they couldn’t get me in until June. Two months? Are you kidding me? Well, I called my mom to ask her advice and she said just to make the appointment and try not to worry.  I called back and was able to somehow get in the next week which made me feel much better.  They asked if I had a referral and I said I had one from my nurse practitioner from my female clinic.  I guess I was under the assumption it could be taken care of immediately.

The next week was my appointment.  My mom took the morning off of work to come with me only to find out when I was being called to check in that my “referral” wasn’t a referral they accepted and would need to see my primary care physician first.  OK.  So, that office happened to be the floor below the Derm center.  I walked down there and had to make an appointment for the next day.

The next day, I went back and saw my PCP and finally had the first bit of relief.  He told me it looked more like a skin tag than anything and he would put 2 orders in the system for me; one for a consult with Derm and one for removal.  Then I had to make ANOTHER appointment back up with Derm which was the following week.  At this point, I felt a bit better but thought I’d go just to see what they said.  The first doctor was great, nice and pretty much said the same thing my PCP said.  However, he told me I had to come back again to have it removed.  I asked him to double check because clearly my PCP put in the two orders because of the first misunderstanding with the referral paperwork.  That’s when the other “main” Dermatologist came in.  She was very short with me and as I tried to explain the situation, she shushed me.  I mean…I…had…no…words.  I thought, “Well, I will be complaining about THIS to someone later miss sassypants.”  Anyways, turns out when the receptionist checked me in, she clicked the “consult” not the “biopsy.”  So, I had to make ANOTHER appointment to have a biopsy.

Thankfully, I had two different Dermatologists for the actual procedure.  They were both so nice and comforting.  I was a bit nervous when they brought me in the procedure room and I had to put a gown on.  They also gave me some relief in telling me it does not look like signs of malignancy but they’d send it in just in case.  I was in and out in 15 minutes.

After all of the paperwork and scheduling misunderstandings, I still have to be grateful for the last couple doctors I saw AND that it was covered under CampusCare.  When I received an email to take a survey, I made sure I complimented the doctors that deserved it and gave a comment about the other doctor who shushed me, a grown adult in her late twenties who was nervous and confused about what was happening.  Two weeks later, I’m doing ok and the mole is gone and the site is healing.

Again, I feel very lucky, even through the hiccups, that the UIC Family Medicine Center took care of me.

So Daenerys, Goku, and two Elsas walk into a room…

Some nights, courage running thin / Head down, all adrenaline…

Whenever convention time rolls around, I am always a little dumbfounded at first to see such an eclectic mix of characters appear before me. Not that I attend many entertainment conventions usually, but I was excited to be able to go to ACEN last weekend with my brother for the second time! Anime Central, better known as ACEN to all the hundreds of thousands of fans who flock to Rosemont, Illinois, one weekend in May dressed up in the mad mix of cosplays and costumes. This year was my second time attending (I went last year as well) and it is always a fascinating experience to see all of these people congregated to celebrate their love for anime and entertainment. It’s no wonder that it’s the largest anime convention in the midwest, especially when they invite big names in the industry to be at the panels.

To be honest, however, I have found that I have mostly outgrown anime and manga in the past few years. I remember staying up late Friday and Saturday nights in middle school to watch all the new anime on TV (what a strange time before I knew of Netflix and streaming!) and then read all of the corresponding manga as well. Maybe I grew older and just found other interests, but I haven’t been as captivated by anime in the past couple years. Most likely I just became much busier and occupied with school!

In any case, ACEN is truly worthwhile to attend at least once for any fan of entertainment. I love fictional characters, and it’s thrilling to see the crossover mingling of characters that vary from Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad to Disney and Attack on Titan–a wildly popular anime that I think I will find time to watch this summer…I couldn’t look anywhere in the  convention without seeing about five cosplays from it! However, I think what was really most popular was all the Frozen cosplays. It was funny seeing a line of Elsas who all look so similar but also a little bit different crowded together for a picture! It’s really a testament to how friendships are formed over common interests to see complete strangers from all around the country bonding over an episode of Madoka Magica or taking mass photos together because their cosplayed characters match. On the inside of ACEN was a vendor section, where merchandise of all varieties were being sold. Unfortunately, as the ever frugal and broke college student, I can rarely afford anything I want to buy here! But awesome items I saw (and really wanted!) were a Chewbacca bath robe, an awesome Rurouni Kenshin samurai sword replica, Gundam model kits, and of course tons of adorable Pokemon plushies that I always want! (Luckily I do have some semblance of self-control now that I’m older.)

My nerd is showing! But what’s wonderful is that’s what helped me meet so many friendly and colorful people this weekend. Check out just a couple pictures I took of some of my favorite cosplays!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tonight you’re electrical / Unchained like an animal / And I want you to know / That you’re glitter and gold

(Glitter and Gold – Little Daylight)

Page 4 of 59« First...23456102030...Last »