Monday, September 24, 2012

Such a Great Quote

It's so fitting to come across this quote at a time when I'm unsure of my future. This is the second time it's inspired me to move forward. The first time it took me to New Zealand. Where will I end up this time?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Human Library?

While researching social media I came across this strange phenomenon: A library that loans out people in a human library.

Basically, you "check out" people to have a 45-minute conversation about who they are and hear their story one-on-one. It's to help us get past our prejudices and the stereotypes that exist around someone that we've never actually had any interactions with like a gypsy, a transvestite or a person of a different religion.
It started in 2000 at the Roskilde Festival. A poster from the event said in big bold letters: "Don't judge a book by it's cover" and then in Danish underneath, "especially when its not a book." The far right corner continues in Danish:

"Borrow a person you normally would think you would not like. We have a wide selection of unpopular stereotypes. Everything from gays to hip hoppers to immigrants. Take a walk, have a talk or dont. Just remember to give back the person within two hours".

The event was so popular that it has since spread across the globe. Here's a video from The Guardian, regarding an event in England:

I love the idea that a personal conversation is being used in such an interesting way to fight prejudice and stereotypes. In this case, it's marketing for a good cause. And possibly a good back-up plan if my other career options don't pan out. I'm just not sure if I would be a better "book" or "reader."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

When Risk Doesn't Pay

Risk can be a great fact, it's created a lot of wonderful memories in my life. But when it doesn't pay out it can feel like a punch in the stomach. Yesterday, I felt that direct hit when I was laid off from my job. It was a risk when I stuck with the company last Spring on a contractual basis. Unfortunately, the company is struggling now, so I'm back at home looking for work.

My favorite comfort foods
Specifically, my position was cut due to the financial situation at the company. Although I knew the company was struggling I had thought my blow had been dealt when my weekly hours were cut from 32 to 20 less than two weeks ago. As far as I knew I was going to continue through the end of the year with fewer hours but with a job. Unfortunately, that changed.

During my particular meeting, I was reassured that it was a decision that was made based on the company's finances and not on my performance. It was meant to be reassuring, but it was all I could do to stop from breaking down. I couldn't even concentrate on putting pen to paper to leave my personal contact information. And when the meeting finished, I was asked to leave the office without saying a word. So I took a few minutes alone, put my chin up and walked back to my desk, packed up my things discreetly and made my way out the door. But that meant that I couldn't say goodbye to my co-workers who I have become friends with over the last 9 months. I couldn't pass along my contact information or wish them luck with the remainder of the year. That was probably the hardest strain of all.

Pesto kept a vigil
What I don't think all companies understand is that some of us know it's about business. It's not personal, there are still a lot of people that are depending on companies to make good financial decisions right now so that they can keep their own jobs. But if you take away too much of the personal feel, it becomes just cold. I was left with a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. Fortunately, I know that tomorrow is a new day. Now back to my Oreos and wine...

Things to be thankful for:
- Good friends and family
- A cat that keeps me company
- Books to temporarily take me away from reality one page at a time
- Better tomorrows

Friday, September 14, 2012

Privacy on the Web?

How much of my life should I publish in a blog and how much should I keep between me and the few people I let into my weird little world? It's a hard question to answer. It's one that has kept me away from the blogging world for the last few months.

When I returned to the United States I enjoyed travelling all over the US visiting friends and family. Blogging about that is easy. It's travel and sights and fun stories from far off places. But last Fall I settled into a routine with work and a job search and I located myself in one city. It was then that I started focusing on other things like friendships and love interests. And blogging about that is more difficult than I expected. How can I write about the man I'm dating or the person I fall in love with? How can I convey the heart ache when the relationship doesn't work despite our best efforts? Those are things that I'd love to share because they are certainly not unique to me, but exposing so much of myself just doesn't feel right. So I stayed quiet. Through hilarious stories of dating mishaps, through love and heartbreak, and now I'm back. I may still not explore the romantic side of my life but I realized that even in my daily life "at home" it's still pretty interesting. And really my blog has always been about living life to it's fullest.

And on that note, I'm going to shout-out to a college friend of mine from MU who is enjoying her life to the fullest as well. She keeps a regular blog and was recently featured on the Jeff Probst Show due to her incredible energy and approach to really living, even after being diagnosed with cervical cancer. Since we met our freshman year she has had this energy. And as our paths crossed now and again since she's never lost it. But what's impressive is how she's maintained that zest over the last year in the face of adversity. See her clip from the show.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Viewing the Venus Transit

Making big news yesterday was the transit of Venus across the sun. With my love for Science (and because I hate to miss all the action), I rearranged my plans on Tuesday to see the event. The transit was set to begin at 5:04p in Chicago. The evening was perfectly clear with not a cloud in the sky and the weather was gorgeous. Unfortunately, that meant that everyone in the city decided to head to the planetarium. By the time I got there, the telescopes that were set up outside had lines wrapping from one corner of the building to the other and everywhere in between. We squeezed in the shortest line available. And then, with much anticipation, we peered through the filter (telescope lines were so long we wouldn't have been able to see it in time) and focused on the tiny pin hole appearing over the sun (as the docent explained it was the same size as the Earth). Incredible. And even more incredible:  All the people getting a glimpse of this small marvel from Sydney to Bahrain to Chicago and everywhere in between.

Today a coworker shared a link to some very cool photos from around the world here. I'm thinking that it would have been pretty amazing to see it through a telescope. Of course, if I had been more prepared I could have had nearly as much fun taking pictures of the crowd, that was quite a spectacle in itself.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Return to Blogging

That's right, I'm back and blogging again. My life has started to get fully packed with a job, friends, dating and activities which means other things fall away as I try to carve out enough time in my day, lately its been blogging, cooking and going to the gym. And as much as I like my smart phone there is just something to be said about a good old fashioned planner where I can write my to-do list and start crossing things off. So for my return to blogging I thought I would start with an update:

My Humble Abode
I'm living in the Gold Coast of Chicago in a great apartment that I'm renting from my aunt. Unfortunately it didn't sell when she put it on the market a few years ago so I've moved in to pay her rent and live in a great location. I live near North Avenue Beach, Lincoln Park, the lake shore bike path, the grocery store, several train stops and my gym. I'm also a short walk from Michigan Avenue, downtown and my office.

Amanda and me in Miami, FL
My travel bug has definitely been dormant lately. I've made a few fun trips to various places including Miami (to visit an old college friend over Easter weekend) and Boston (for work and then a weekend with my family). But for the most part I don't have any fun exotic trips planned in my future. Maybe I should start working on that...after I put money back in my bank accounts.

Replenishing My Funds
I have found a job! I started working for a start up company as the Director of Marketing in February. The company creates virtual 3D environments for use during marketing research. For example if a large company wants to put out a new bottle of ketchup they may do in-store testing to see what the consumers will think of it before they spend the money on the new direction. Instead of using in-store testing our company can create a store in 3D online that can be used for testing instead. It's a cheaper and faster option.

Specifically I'm working in a contract position for 32 hours a week which leaves me time to continue some of my other contract projects on the side. I'm really enjoying the challenges of starting up a functioning marketing department. It helps that my co-workers are fun people to work with as well.

Seina, me, Renee on a beautiful St. Pat's
Keeping Up My Social Life
I have continued to meet lots of great new people in the Windy City. It's amazing how many people you can meet when you are open to talking to anyone anywhere. Maybe this was always a trait I had but didn't use, or maybe I learned it while I lived overseas, either way, an outgoing personality definitely seems to open a lot of doors.

Dating has become much easier when you meet people on the street, at the gym, doing errands and get a little help from Of course I still haven't found anyone that I'm serious about so I'll have to keep working on that. But with my new and old friendships comes fun activities:
Our group for playing paintball
  • Polar plunge in Lake Michigan at the end of January (Air temp: 34. Water temp: 33)
  • Slumber party with a bunch of girls reliving our childhood with games, facials and stories
  • Playing Paintball in March with a big group of friends
  • Celebrating St. Patrick's Day by the river (a must do in Chicago)
  • Running the Shamrock Shuffle (without training!)
  • Catching a baseball game at Wrigley in April
  • Trivia nights at a local bar
So what's next? Well, we'll just have to see. I seem to have a knack for keeping my life interesting.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Zealand Book is Finished!

I finally got all of my memories and photos into one semi-consolidated book!!! It's 154 pages, but who's counting. That was after much editing and deleting and re-adding and more editing of photos and fun stories. Understandably, it's just not easy to summarize the incredible year I had! My hard copy arrived very quickly last Friday and every time I look through it, more memories come flooding back.

You can preview my book here. A combination of blog posts, photos, and a few additional memories, I'm really happy with the way it turned out. I hope you like it:

Please note: If you really like it, you can purchase a copy for yourself through the site. Although my main goal for posting it here is so you can preview the finished product, I know several people asked about purchasing a copy. Also, there are a lot of pictures so sometimes it takes a minute to load (particularly on slower connections) just be prepared for that.

It really was one of the best years of my life and so I thank you for being a part of that, even if it was just as a supporter through my blog. I look forward to getting back to New Zealand again sometime soon. Until that point comes, I'll have to be satisfied with my new visual reminder instead. And I'll continue to blog when I have new fun memories to share.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

After spending so long without a proper snowfall, I'm happy to say that the snow is finally falling in Chicago. We have had unseasonably warm weather this winter, including 50 degrees over the holidays, which meant I could look cute for New Year's without worrying about the bulky clothing. So you would think that this weather would only help people appreciate the snow more when it finally came, because we are in Chicago, it will come. But over the last two days 90% of the people I talk to are miserable about it, or at least I thought they were.

Walking home from work along North Avenue, Chicago
I have a new theory... when you talk to someone about the upcoming snow in Chicago, it's just our way of saying "Hey, how you doin'?" It's a conversation starter. It's a good opening line so you don't have to spend an elevator ride staring at the weird pattern of the carpet. I have a suggestion though: don't throw them off by telling them that you actually like the impending doom that may be falling on the city. Because that act alone throws off the balance of it all and gives away that you don't belong...even if you've been in the city for nearly 10 years.

And in case anyone had any doubt of my sanity, I'll be stripping down to my swim suit and plunging in Lake Michigan on January 28 with the Lakeview Polar Bear Club. After all, if I'm going to cross this off my bucket list (again, since I did one in Auckland already) I might as well do it during a warm winter. Care to join me?