Thursday, December 31, 2009

Closing Out the Year

About 2 weeks ago, in a building located in our nation's capital, I officially went into the record books as being scottish. The headquarters of the DAR (Daughter's of the American Revolution) approved my application to become a member, after several years of hunting down records connecting me with my Scottish immigrant ancestor, Daniel Bartholomew who arrived in America on the fateful day of July 4, 1776.

Becoming a member of this honored society has been a goal for many years and is just one of the many things I am able to celebrate this year. I've got quite a list, as you'll see below.  I don't know why I'm obsessed with my ancestry (Scottish, Italian, English, Germany, Irish & Welsh) but for me, it forms not only who I am but my link with history and all of its discoveries and stories. So each December 31st as people put together their list of resolutions, I prefer to look back at all the good things that have happened over the year. My stories. My history. The resolutions are something I think should be dealt with each day, not just at the dawn of a new year.
And so, if you feel so inclined, my list of celebrations. My little history of 2009 is below. Enjoy.

(In no particular order)
1. Getting a full-time teaching job at Urbana High School
2. Becoming a member of the DAR
3. Adding another year of swing dancing to my dance card
4. Reconnecting with old friends through facebook
5. The birth of another baby amongst my friends
6. Working at Wrigley Field for Rascal Flatts & Billy Joel/Elton John
7. Working for 2 days in the rain for O.A.R. who thanked me with gift cards
8. Moving to Urbana
9. Attending Summerfest in Milwaukee after a 2 year absence
10. Playing beach volleyball
11. Watching Wellspring, my small group, expand and grow
12. Watching my new favorite TV show, Psych
13. Reading Echo in the Bone which finally was released only to be left with more cliffhangers!
14. Participating in Lyrics for Life day in September
15. Participating in the Chicago Olympic Bid process
16. Seeing the Leon's back up from Peru for a few weeks
17. Discovering the music of Snow Patrol & Tyrone Wells
18. Singing in the staff performance at the Winter Assembly in Urbana
19. Many, many nights at Fizz & Summer Dance
20. Watching Park Community Church truly work hard to transform Chicago & its Family
21. Becoming a true WXRT fan
22. Learning the Shim Sham
23. Begin writing as a pen-pal with a distant family member in Italy
24. Watching the final season of BBC's Robin Hood
25. Plenty of time spent with girlfriends
26. Developing new friendships in Urbana
27. Seeing Public Enemies after having watched it being filmed in Chicago
28. Movie/Game nights on Chicago Ave at the crooked apartment
29. Discovering I can become an Italian citizen
30. Being invited to a private swing lesson with Tom, a fellow dancer
31. Finding the Champaign swing scene, despite it being nothing like Chicago's scene
32. A weekend in Michigan with friends before moving
33. Visits by Sarah, Amy & Kathryn to see me in Champaign!

There are plenty more I could add, but that's as long of a list as I'd like to make.

Tomorrow marks the new dawn of a new day. A new year. A new decade. Use it as motivation to do good, be good and share some good with everyone around you! Make your own history. 


Monday, December 21, 2009


School is out! At least for 2009. And it's been a good 1st semester. We've got 2 weeks left of it when the new year ushers us all back through those doors but for now, I get to take a break from writing about school and share some stories from the northern lands (okay, really just Chicago).

I began my vacation with a night seeing Sister Hazel at House of Blues, my usual concert this time of year. They ALWAYS put on a good show and this was no exception. I brought along two Hazel newbies, my friend Laura whom I have known almost forever and Kathryn, whom I have known for a few years through swing dancing. I picked up Laura on my way up to the city. Had a brief play date with her kids (my nephew and niece) and Todd, another long-time friend before celebrating a brief Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony and then driving the rest of the way to Chitown.

Kathryn met us at HOB, reserving a seat in the restaurant for dinner so that we can "pass the line" when doors opened. I had panicked all week that we wouldn't be able to do this fantastic little feature but she was seated at 5:45 and told the staff we wouldn't arrive till 6:15 (which was a pretty rough estimate). They didn't bat an eye and we showed up at Marina City at 6:15 on the nose despite some traffic on Lake Shore. 

The show as always was genuine, rocking and fun. At one point, Drew pulled out $100 a bought drinks for the crowd. We secured one such drink and kept rocking out. The unique thing about their audience compared to most bands is that the crowd is pretty much split 50/50 men and women. It would be a dream to meet my guy at a Hazel show but I'm not sure what fate has in the cards in that department. It is quite funny to see guys singing full bore on rock songs AND the ballads. Love it.

Last night was a gathering of Chicago runners. For those unfamiliar with what a runner is (and I don't mean the athletic kind) we are the folks who basically keep a concert running. We get anything that might be needed for artist and crew (from groceries to truck parts to cigarettes) and drive artist & crew to hotels, the apple store and any other location you can imagine. Next time you are in Chicago or near Assembly Hall in Champaign and see a white, 15-passenger van go by, you may wonder if it is a runner going by with precious cargo. 

Anyway, the runners did their 2nd Annual bowling night. The gathering was a bit smaller than last year but no less fun. There were plenty of stories to go around. Some good. Some less so. artists from all walks of life. People from every facet of the business. Even dirt on each other. There is talk that a yearbook will be created next year. Now THAT will be something to see.

Tonight I am going out dancing. Swing style. It is the 9th annual Christmas Swing, Trivia & Ugly Sweater contest at Fizz, Chicago's premier swing locale on Monday nights. It has been 8 weeks since I have swing danced (Halloween was the last time). Hopefully I still have it. Before that commences though, there is bowling fun to be had with my high school friends. I don't think any of us has bowled in a long time, except my foray last night. With these friends though, it doesn't matter how the bowling goes, its the conversation and togetherness that makes it so special.

Well, I'm off to my adventures. I'll have more hiatus fun when the next blog hits the press. Happy Holidays. May your days be merry and bright. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Life Got In the Way

Back in 2002 two of my favorite songwriters teamed up to to write a song called Life Got in the Way. (Ken Block & Richard Marx). The song describes how life gets in the way of plans you have for your life from time to time. 

I've had some time to be reflective and introspective the last 2 weeks and can honestly say, life got in the way. I had a lot of plans to get ahead in planning school lessons, getting my evaluation binders back together and getting my finals and review guides ready for January. 

On the Monday before Thanksgiving I found out my Grandmother was approaching her final few days on this side of Heaven. It was at once both a tough phone call to receive and one that was a bit of a stress reliever. Gram has been a victim of alzheimers for the last 3 years. 2 years ago we moved her up from Florida in order to have her n
earer to family members. In that time, my immediate family has spent many a day traveling the hour or so west of Chicago where she was being cared for. This past June was among my last times seeing her. She didn't recognize me or know my name. It was her 90th birthday. While sad, I was nonetheless (great word) happy to share that day with her, her sister and my Mother.

On Wednesday morning on my drive to work I found out Gram had passed away. I knew it was coming, but knowing still doesn't prepare your heart for the floodgates of emotions that surge through you when reality hits. With that one phone call I not only felt much stress depart, at wondering when her passing would happen but also the stress of realizing I wasn't going to be able to do much in the way of planning during what was supposed to be "Thanksgiving Break."

So I sat at our new teacher meeting tonight and frustration that I've felt since coming back from "Break" boiled over,  although its source eluded me until later this evening. Our evaluations are happening now and mine is on Friday. We need to submit our daily lesson plans to our evaluators (mine is the principal). I thought I was bothered by the fact that I technically have 4 preps and had WAY more to submit for evaluation than many other folks. In reality, I think my frustration stems more from the fact that I haven't had a real 2+days off yet since mid-November. I'm still playing catch up with lesson planning. I'm worried about getting review guides done next week. I've got a penchant for being ahead on planning not to-date on planning and it is just plain stressing me out!

Now, only a select few people know all this has happened over the last few weeks. I don't want the world to pity me. It truly is a blessing that Gram has passed as peacefully as she did and that her battle is now finished. There were a lot of folks up There that were calling her home and that thought alone is beautiful.

I think I won't finally be at peace with it all until she is buried, which is sometime in the next few days. In the meantime, I'm going to agree with Ken & Richard and acknowledge that life gets in the way. But it is up to me to push through those roadblocks and trudge forward. I'm a glass 1/2 full person and I need to stop seeing the glass as 1/2 empty in my mind. The good news right now? All these lessons and binders and worksheets that are in my notebook will be done for all of time, minus any tweaking I do down the road.

Now that is some advanced planning....
(This post is dedicated to Gram. Love you always.)