Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Here it is. The Friday after Thanksgiving. Did you ever wonder why we call it Black Friday? I did and so I did some fact checking. Turns out the moniker has only been around for the last 35 years or so. Black is the meaning of accounting books and the stores, which typically have their biggest sales of the year on this date, hope to find themselves safely "in the black" when it comes to raking in the cash of sales. And since 2005, that has been the case increasingly more, although internet sales are making a roaring attracting to those (like me) who hate standing in lines.

It has been a fantastic weekend in Chicago. I pondered for about 30 minutes last night on heading out early to be one of the few, the dedicated, the crazy Black Friday deal hunters. I've never shopped on Black Friday. I hate shopping, except in rare moods. Although, I really love this time of year because I have specific gifts to buy for OTHER people. I love giving gifts.

In the end, though, I left the condo at 10:30 and was on Michigan Avenue by 11am. I popped into a few stores. Here's what I discovered in the 2 hours I was "shopping." Department Stores and even Apple were not overwhelmingly crowded. I wandered in to Apple to price check something and found that there were plenty of service people, including a guy on crutches wearing a Santa hat. I played with an iPad. I touched the Macbook Air (it really is light!). I checked out some of the other gizmos in the store. But in Macy's, Nordstroms and Apple there was room to walk, plenty of registers available with no line or very limited line. On other hand, places like Express and Banana Republic were lines that were at least 100 people long. I stood in one for about 15 minutes and then decided to just drop the gifts near the nearest shelf and buy them online. Really, is standing in an hour long line worth saving an extra $5 when I could just do it online (and probably pay cheaper taxes?).

But the best part of this weekend so far has been Thanksgiving Day. My sister and brother-in-law came over with all the fixings. Turkey, apple-raisin stuffing, cranberry, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and a mixed batch of veggies that included string beans, carrots and asparagus. It was perfectly delicious.

We then played a game. My mother, being a avid recreation specialist, wanted to start a tradition of playing games during family holidays. I'm all in. I love games. I really love when people sit around a table and talk or play and are actively involved in something together. That was one of the things that kept my high school friends and I so close. Whether it was Spades (which got us through countless weekends) or the Annual Gender-Team Trivial Pursuit game, we enjoy each other's company and always feel like we step away knowing each other just a bit more, even if that means how competitive they are.

Last night the game was Settlers of Catan, a Germany game that I learned 2 summers ago. I've hooked my teacher friends on it down in Champaign and introduced my parent's to the game on Friday. They liked it. But last night was fun. We had noises for different parts of the game (wheat was often said in a high pitched wheat! tone and Sheep were often followed by a baaa noise). My sister and Bro-in-law played as a pair and were so cute to watch. And mom won the game. We were all very close to winning, which makes it all the more fun.

I'm thankful there are 2 more days left to enjoy. I've got the place to myself tomorrow and I plan on doing all of my leftover grading. I'll probably read a bit more and I'm going to have to investigate whether or not there is another Sherlock Holmes film being made. We watched that tonight (another tradition - movie one night during the Holiday weekends). It was very interestingly filmed and acted. Odd plot, too. But all in all, pretty good.

So there you go. About 2 miles walked in the chilly but gorgeous city. A lunch with friends at a local pub. An evening with my parents. An afternoon with my whole family. And 2 more days to go. LOVE IT! There are so many things to be thankful for and if I wrote them all this would be a terribly long blog post. So to those of you who have weathered through the storms these last few years (and the ones to come) - thank you. To my family, I couldn't love you more. And last but not least, thanks to God. I couldn't do anything I do with out You.

On to Birthday, Christmas & New Years! It's the most wonderful time of the year....

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I Need To Breathe

What a week! The calendar has flipped to November and I realize that we are now in the home stretch towards Thanksgiving and Christmas...and my favorite time of year.

While the weather in Illinois has been unseasonably warm and very dry, the idea that it is November hasn't really matched the fresh, new page before me on my wall. True, it is very dark in the morning and in fact, I took the garbage out a few mornings ago at about 6:30 a.m. in about 34 degree temps and the moon and stars were still shining brightly above me. How very odd. When I drive to school around 7:15 a.m. the sun is just starting to make it's journey above the horizon and is blazing a bright spot on my dashboard. Temporarily blinded as I heat eastward, it's light is causing the window, freshly scraped of frost with bits of ice still clinging to its surface, to free their bonds and melt away, the sun's heat the last it can take before evaporating.

I get home around 3:30-4 p.m. most days and the sun is just settling into its path to hide for the night. I like to open my windows and sit on my couch looking westward and follow it's trail. I usually doze off for a few moments as the heat calms me, unless my brain is in overdrive thinking of the many things left to do before nightfall and bedtime.

I didn't intend to write about nature but perhaps my blog title led me to realize just how much we rely on the fiery orb to pass the time. I rarely venture out once dark, unless it is to meet up with Buddies or swing dance. But this past week I ventured to Campusland and saw the band called NeedToBreathe. It's a rare occurrence to see a show this time of year. Concert season usually is in full swing during the summer and early Sept/October but by November things taper down except the holiday shows. But this was a band I began listening to last year. They are a combination of jam band, John Fogerty, Jonny Lang, CSNY and Sister Hazel all sort of wrapped up into one. They hail from South Carolina and are technically a Christian rock band. It has been a while since I was blown away by a show. But this was amazing.

There is nothing fake about these guys. Two brothers, Bear and Bo, front the band along with long-time friends on bass and drums. The harmonies were fantastic. The instrument-playing first rate and the energy level was high. Don't give me anything fake. Show me you love what you are doing, you believe in what you are singing and I'll buy into it hook, line and sinker. It doesn't hurt to have guitars, keyboard, drums and several voices singing lyrics that are generally positive (and a banjo and tambourine mixed in for good measure). That to me is what a good band is.

Most of the airplay these guys get is for their slower tunes. But they can sure turn the volume up. (Sound is never good in their videos...they like their bass but here you go - a version of A Girl Named Tennessee.

I've always kinda liked the southern, country/rock boundry when it comes to music. These guys seem really humble, you can TELL they have fun doing what they do and I appreciate their songwriting abilities. Plus, this is only the 2nd time I have ever seen a band come out for a 2nd encore and perform completely unplugged - no amps. no mics. The first was a band called Nickelcreek. Then there was NeedToBreathe...

Now the unplugged performance is done right it can give you goosebumps. They're perfect for small venues, like this one at the Canopy Club and if the audience is quiet enough you can hear every strum and every vocal note. This crowd was largely college-aged so they weren't as quiet as I'd have liked but I still got goosebumps. Here's a video of one of their acoustic numbers - Washed By the Water (Don't even tell me you don't get goosebumps!)

I went solo to the show. Mostly because everyone that loves the band was preoccupied that night. No big deal though, since I learned long ago that it's perfectly fine to go do things alone so long as I really am interested. You learn real quick as a single, quarter-century adult that if you can just get over the embarrassing part of doing things alone (eating out, going to a movie, sitting in a coffee shop, going to shows) then it's not so bad and there is a minor chance of meeting like-minded people. I didn't meet anyone that night (more because I wanted to be able to see in the standing-room crowd and was captured by the music and getting a great photo). The show started at 7 p.m. and was done by 9:30 p.m. and I was at home by 10! Very odd but so glad I went.

Do you Need To Breathe? I've been working hard at getting out of the house. Socializing has been minimal this year with being sick and somehow having more grading than last year (how did THAT happen?). Not only has this band's music made me feel a little calmer but it's making me soak in the world around me a lot more. I hadn't been taking the time to see the sun and moon and stars the way I did over the last few weeks had I not starting taking a few moments for myself. Get out there. Give yourself some TLC and know that tomorrow is a new day. Just breathe.....


PS - next week more on Italy, school and MSI fun to come!