The Big U of K

September 10th, 2012 by admin

You may not have noticed, but I sent my son to college recently. I held it together pretty well, considering how strongly I feel about my kiddo. The outpouring of calls I got was very touching … people checked on me for several days after the move to make sure I wasn’t committing empty-nest seppuku.

The entire experience of sending Kory to the University of Kentucky still seems a little unreal. If there is anything I can remember about my upbringing, it is that UK is the best team, the best school, the gold standard for athleticism and education. This is mostly due to my father’s passion for UK’s basketball team, despite the fact that he attended Bellarmine, and my sisters attended U of L. My brother made it to UK, for a while, but I didn’t appreciate the impact at the time. Sitting in freshman/parent orientation, I appreciated the impact. It was a really amazing experience.

Kory, Aunt Karen, Aunt Amy
Michael and Kory

(Non-Kentucky readers – the rivalry between UK and UL is explosive. Think OSU v Michigan. Russia v USA. Cats v Dogs.)

I am a visual person … words and images resonate with me. So, when I see the UK blue and white, or the Kentucky Wildcat, I feel genuinely happy. It’s not just a pleasing color combination, it’s an affirmation of things I’ve heard since I was a little kid. I’ve also watched the basketball team do some pretty amazing things. Football, not so much. Nobody’s perfect.

I hear people say derisive and, frankly, horrible things about the college and team I was raised to love. I try to separate the passion for sports from … well, the rest of humanity. Sports fans are a little nuts … it’s like religion.

The sports, however, are not the important thing here. There are several important things going on, and I have only recently been able to take the space I need to reflect.

– I was a teen mom. I spent a couple of years doing a really crappy job of raising my son, and if his grandparents hadn’t stepped in I have no idea where we would be today.

Grandma and Kory
Kory and Grandparents

– I did, eventually, get it together and make Kory my priority. It’s the smartest thing I have ever done.
– My boyfriend, partner, and best friend Chip has been around since my boy was funny-looking (he was kind of purple as a baby), and neither Kory nor I would be where we are today without him.

Chip n Kory

– When I was Kory’s age, I was pregnant, living in a crappy apartment, and wondering how to pay bills on minimum wage. Kory is a pre-med student at a renowned university and, from what I can tell, loving every minute of it.

I see some really sad comments on social media sites about my son’s school. Things like “I support UL because I went there, you support UK because you went to Wal-Mart.” I’ll save my thoughts on Wal-Mart for another post, but to the rest, there are many reasons to support a team or university. Few of them involve where you actually went to school. Most of them involve the values or lessons you learned while growing, and a team can be a positive influence in many ways. It gave me a way to relate to my father.

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It gave me a legacy to pass to my son.

Chipmonkey Porn

April 11th, 2012 by admin

Let me tell you, the Chipmonkey gets an awful lot of action, and all across the globe, too! You may remember the monkey-on-monkey love in Kenya, for example:

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Chipmonkey’s adventures continued when I finally got Chip-the-human down to my home away from home, the Florida Keys. We stayed here:

Chipmonkey in the Marathon Airport

Or, more specifically, here:

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I won’t do the day by day recap, because it’s been a while and it’s kind of a blur, but we managed to go ocean fishing …

Chip and Ang on the Fishing Boat (2)

… although we didn’t catch much. I had a big one on the line, but the reel popped off (!) as I was trying to bring it in. Operator error, I’m sure. Chipmonkey fished a little too:

Chipmonkey and the fishing mate

He caught nothing … apparently his inter-species proclivities do not extend to marine life. He did make out with a blue and gold macaw at the docks, though!

Chip and the Parrot (Ruckus)

We ate too much too often …

Ang, Chip, and Oysters
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The most important moment of the trip, however, occurred when we finally spotted the elusive key deer that I’ve heard to much about but never seen (I know they’re elusive because the Internet says so). Naturally, Chipmonkey had to get in on the action.

Here, little deer. C’mere …

Chip and the Key Deer (2)

That’s it … a little closer …

Chip and the Key Deer (3)

Don’t eat the Chipmonkey! Looooove the Chipmonkey …

Chip being kissed by the Key Deer (4)

Good deer.

As always, Jeff and Misty were gracious and welcoming hosts, and I don’t think I’ll have any trouble convincing Chip to go back. I’m pretty sure the monkey won’t mind, either.

Ta Da!

November 21st, 2011 by admin

I’m getting some time off in December, so new posts will be forthcoming, but in the mean time …

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Finally.

Sneak Peak

September 14th, 2011 by admin

Surfing!

Kory Surfing (3)

I should learn to keep my mouth shut …

September 11th, 2011 by admin

No time at all passed between my last post and a series of events that ensured I was unable to “just chill” and enjoy having finished school.

First of all, our house was burglarized. While it may have been something of an overreaction, I took that as a sign that it was time to move. I found a bigger house with a yard for the dogs in a nicer neighborhood … the only catch was the carpet in the kitchen. And the bathroom. Carpet.

Say it with me: Who does that?

I agreed to rent the place if I was allowed to replace the offending floor covering with something more appropriate. Chip graciously donated a large chunk of his vacation and considerable skill to the project. My kitchen is now lovely, and the bathroom isn’t half bad either.

Additionally, the second floor smelled like a rabbit hutch. Have you ever smelled rabbit pee? It’s gross. It took three and a half gallons of Nature’s Miracle (which is a wonderful product) to rid the carpet of the stink. What a pain.

Home invasions and moving aside, I also went from being a full time student to a full time employee without blinking – actually, I  started working before I’d even finished classes. However, the job for which I was hired was billed as: proofreader/copy editor/technical writer. What they actually wanted was: a proofreader. Highly technical documents in nine languages where all the proofreader does is look for stray commas and the like. Ick. That isn’t what I went to school for, it was boring as all get out, and frankly, I sucked at it.

As it happened, my former boss from Technology First (where I interned as a student for two years) left the organization for a new opportunity. That left his position open, and I jumped at the chance to fill his shoes. I love it, and I think I’m really good at it. My title is Communications Coordinator, but really I am responsible for half of everything the organization does. It’s crazy and busy, but it’s a ton of fun.

Kory has also started driving, which is wonderful from a logistic perspective yet terrifying from a parental perspective. I alternate between being thrilled that I don’t have to play taxi to freaking out if he’s home fifteen minutes later than expected. It’s a roller coaster.

All told, I fervently hope that there will be few major changes in my future. I’m just fine with things the way they are, and I don’t need any more milestones.

Somewhere in there we took a vacation to North Carolina, which was sublime, and I will post pictures soon. Kory and his friend Kevin learned to surf. It was awesome.

Now What?

July 27th, 2011 by admin

When most students graduate college, at least those who are not immediately embarking upon adventures in graduate school, they experience a plethora of emotions.  First, accomplishment.  We are members of the 22% of Americans with a bachelor’s degree.  That’s not a huge percentage, and a four-year degree is a big accomplishment.  Second, freedom.  I used Wikipedia as a source for the statistic in the previous point, and it felt goooood (actually it didn’t, and I’m itching to go find a more reliable source, but that would defeat my purpose).  Taking that last final and realizing we will be able to read for pleasure again, or not read at all if we so choose, creates a sense of euphoria. Third, anxiety.  After the “school’s out” high wears off, we begin to wonder what we’re going to do with our shiny new degrees, a prospect that can be terrifying.  The economy is still struggling, and the market is flooded with degree-holding job seekers, some of whom have the real-world experience that puts them ahead of younger graduates.

Luckily, I fall into the category of recent graduates with real-world experience and I landed a terrific job in the exact field I wanted.  Not only does this mean I get to do something I love, it means I get to stick my tongue out at all the naysayers who claim a liberal arts education is worthless in the current economic climate.

So, you might ask, what’s my problem?  My problem is that I’m only a few weeks past that stressful “last” final, and I already miss it.  Not because I don’t like my job, and not because I hate the “real world,” but because there is still so much to learn.  If there is a downside to my job, it’s that I read all day and am not terribly inclined to read for pleasure (or education) at home (at least not yet, I know I have plenty of time to adjust).  But while I was in school, there was always something new, even if it was something I didn’t like, and there was always something to talk about.  While technical writing is precisely what I went to school for and I love it (most aspects of it, anyway) it does not make for terribly enthralling dinner conversation.  I was inspired at school … I would come up with new ideas all the time or jot down things to write about or books to read “when I graduate.”  Now that the time has come, I find myself struggling with what to read, or write, or do with my spare time.

I find myself looking for “the next big milestone.” My brain seems to have a checklist (as I’m sure many other brains have), and now that it’s ticked off “graduate” and “get a job” it’s searching for the next accomplishment to cross off the list.  While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s making me a little nuts.  I’m so overwhelmed with worrying about the next big thing, I’m not taking the time to enjoy my life as it is right now.  I can pay my bills, I have a caring network of family and friends, and if there is any justice my son will have his driver’s license in a couple of weeks and I will no longer be a taxi service.  (Okay, that last one comes with its own anxiety, but it’s been a long time coming and I am ready for that boy to drive.)

My solution is this: just chill.  I can write a book if I want to, and it doesn’t have to be this week.  I can move to a nicer place if I want to, but my current place isn’t bad and I’ll save money by staying there anyway.  I just need to breathe for a while, and exist in the now.

 

 

Farewell to Facebook

July 11th, 2011 by admin

I recently decided to disable my Facebook page. I only created an account to track down a novelist for a school project in the first place, and aside from the general privacy concerns and bevy of reasons you can read about here, here and here, I found that it was a negative influence on my life in general.

For example, I recently realized I was getting most of my news from Facebook. When something major happened, like a war breaking out or an earthquake, I’d read about it on Facebook first. This means a couple of things: first, I was only getting the news that the 300+ people on my friend list found compelling (and there are really only 100 or so who post regularly). Given that a large chunk of those people are folks I grew up with or went to school with, this means I’m getting the vast majority of my news from people who are, essentially, exactly like me in regard to socioeconomic class, race, etc. That’s not a very good way to learn about the world around me. Second, as was the case with the Casey Anthony trial, I was not only getting the opinion my friend group supported, I was getting it over and over again.  I’m not above being influenced by public opinion, so when I found myself parroting Facebook posts as truth I became understandably concerned.

While the “people just like me” argument applies to socioeconomic class and upbringing, I am a very different person than I was when I hung out with all these people.  Since I attended Catholic schools, most of my “friends” on Facebook are Catholic. I’m an Atheist, and it was often a struggle not to impart MY belief system on those around me the way others’ beliefs are often imparted on me.  However, that brings me to my next anti-Facebook concern: drama.  If I had a nickle for every time a conversation involved the term “Facebook,” well, I’d have lot of nickles. People getting upset in the “real word” about posts, pictures and relationship status updates that all take place online … it’s just gotten a little silly.  Also, I ended up “friends” with people I barely knew and oftentimes didn’t even like very much, but I hesitated to delete them for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. I also refrained from calling them out on their often misguided or completely uneducated ramblings, because I didn’t really know them well enough.  That left my news feed filled with drivel I’d rather do without.  I know you can hide posts, but eventually that, too, becomes silly.

As many anti-Facebookers will note (but I feel bears repeating) Facebook is just a huge time-suck.  I realize I should be able to police my own online activity and stop myself from getting sucked in when I have better things to do, but I’m a master-procrastinator, and Facebook provides just the type of distraction I like to abuse.  At a certain point, I could predict what people are going to post, how often they were going to post … hell, I could probably have told you what they were going to have for breakfast. Do I really need this amount of information about people I haven’t spoken to in ten years? Nope. Do I really need to get worked up because some ultra-conservative Christian Republican who I met ONCE is dumb enough to support Sarah Palin? Definitely not. I’ll save my spikes in blood pressure for more worthy adversaries.

In the end, it was Facebook’s decision to use its considerable power to stop protests in Israel that made me angry enough to  disable my account. That sort of action just goes so far above and beyond what social networking sites should be allowed to do, I found it appalling. My decision was reinforced by Facebook’s disable process … it would NOT LET ME disable MY page with MY information without telling it why. I filled in the answer “I shouldn’t have to.”

Anyone who really wants to stay in touch with me shouldn’t have much trouble doing so. I may give Google+ a fair shake, if for no other reason than to see if someone can get it right when it comes to social networking. Regardless, I imagine my friend list will be much shorter on Google+ than it was on Facebook, and it isn’t going to include people I don’t actually care about.

On Cooking

May 4th, 2011 by admin

Occasionally, I get a little depressed.

It’s raining SO MUCH right now it’s hard for me to NOT be depressed. However, cooking relaxes me. And not just cooking … cooking food for others.

I will rarely cook a meal for myself … I’m more likely to make a sandwich or reheat something. But if I’m feeding people, I will go all out. The second oil hits the pan and I start to sauté garlic and onion, stress leaves my body.

I won’t bother to post recipes … everything I do is fairly simple, and I’ve snagged recipes from some of the best. But if my son has a request – grilled chicken for his birthday, or steaks just because it’s Tuesday, or risotto because he wants to learn how to make it – I’ll grant it. I love to cook.

I will go days, sometimes weeks, when I don’t feel like making the effort. Some days it’s all I can do to drop Kory off at school, go to class, go to work, pick Kory up, do homework, and throw in a load of laundry. Those nights we order pizza, or I heat up frozen lasagna. I am not a chef.

However, I LOVE food shows such as Top Chef or No Reservations … I read books by Anthony Bourdain and worship Tom Colicchio. I know I am a true chef’s worst nightmare … I know just enough to be dangerous.

What I hope these professionals know is that they inspire the small-time cook. I hope they know that when women descend upon their local groceries en mass looking for pearl onions so they can make boeuf bourgignon “a la Julia Child,” they are paying homage to a great profession, and merely trying to imitate its results.

You know what they say about imitation, don’t you?

[Insert Clever Post Title Here]

April 16th, 2011 by admin

Wow, I haven’t posted anything in forever. I’ve had some really busy quarters at school, and my vacations have been short and heavily booked.

Most recently, I had the opportunity to visit Misty, Jeff, and Janus on the Sailing Vessel Thin Line again. Or rather, the Sailing Vessel that is now knows as the Thin Line, formerly the Exposure. Jeff and Misty spent the last eight months restoring and refinishing the boat, a CSY for those who care about boats. As usual, my visit was sublime.

SV Thin Line (3)

We decided to forgo things like dolphin encounters and sightseeing adventures in favor of relaxing aboard the boat and eating ourselves silly. I only had four days to spend there, and thanks to Spring Break I had some absurd travel arrangements; I didn’t arrive until two in the morning on Tuesday and I had to leave for the airport at two in the morning on Saturday. However, it was totally worth it. I even managed to avoid sunburn until day two!

Misty, Jeff. Ang
Jen and David
Harbor
SV Thin Line

After stopping back home briefly, I flew out to Vegas to meet Chip and his friend Stacia, who were cataloging the adventures of Stacia’s dog Taco for her blog. This trip was also too short … I arrived in Las Vegas Tuesday afternoon around three, and we boarded a plane to come home early Thursday morning. It was totally worth it, though … we had an absolute blast.

We started off with a stop at In and Out Burgers, because I planned poorly and didn’t eat all day.

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From there, we hit up the famous Las Vegas sign, wandered around the strip, had dinner at Emeril’s (which was fabulous, I don’t care what Anthony Bourdain says about Emeril), and saw Cirque de Soleil’s Ka.

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Ka was AMAZING … we were all exhausted and I was jet lagged, but the show was incredible enough to keep us oohing and ahhing throughout. I highly recommend it. We decided to walk back to our hotel, stopping to see the fountains at the Bellagio and wander through some of the better-known hotel/casinos on the way.

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Chip needed a nap somewhere in there … he took it standing up.

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Frankly, it’s a miracle I remained upright as long as I did, and I was grateful to collapse into the bed at Circus Circus when we arrived.

Wednesday was my only full day in the city, so we started off with a little gambling, a little breakfast, and a lot of walking. We wandered through casinos, did some shopping, and visited the Coca-Cola shop to taste Coke products from fourteen places around the world. Whatever they call the stuff they drink in Italy was foul, which I was not expecting. Ick.

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After a day of people watching, shopping, and walking with a little gambling thrown in, we returned to dress for the wedding … Tony and Tina’s wedding, that is. This comedy dinner show puts the guests in the middle of the action … we were attendees at an Italian wedding (think Jersey Shore meets Sopranos) complete with dinner buffet and cake. It was hilarious. Chip’s friend Paul plays the part of the photographer, and he said it was the best audience he’d seen in three years of doing the show, so we were in good company.

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Later, we headed to Freemont Street, where we gambled a little more and watched tourists zip line over our heads. The light show was pretty cool, but I think I prefer “New Vegas” to old.

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We collapsed in a heap some time late at night, or perhaps early in the morning, and boarded a plane early in the morning to return to Dayton.

We’ve been back for a couple of weeks, and I think I’m still catching up on sleep.