Friday, December 30, 2011

Our First Christmas

We decided to make the trek from Chi to Kansas by car this year, & it wasn't too bad. A 1-night pit-stop in KC on the way down helped to break up the monotony! We enjoyed dinner & drinks with some old friends & had a great time. We had a gracious hostess, who even made us breakfast! A regular B&B, but she didn't charge us a dime ;)

Then, we were off for small-town KS & lots of family & good times. We quite enjoyed ourselves & it felt great to be sharing the holidays with my HUSBAND. We gobbled up a million calories of course. We caught up with friends & fam, & I won a non-disputed game of British Monopoly, even though my opponents forfeited. Muhahaha! I relished every single moment! Of course, there are a million stops to make & only one, short weekend to do it in, just never enough time.

My camera apparently turned itself on in my purse, so it wasn't alive for any family portraits. Here are a few I've got from family so far...

My oldest niece, almost as tall as me!!

The youngest............ At-ten-tion!! (Every true, country girl needs a pink B.B. gun)

....... & then, posing like the true diva she is!

On the way home Monday, we made a few stops ;) ......... One at our favorite winery in Hermann, MO. . . Well, actually, that's a bit of a stretch. Rather than drive the 15miles off the highway to get to Hermann, we found they sale their wine at the gas station off the same highway exit. Another perk, it's cheaper than at the winery! Perhaps, it isn't the newest/oldest bottles, but it suits us just fine. :)

Also, hubs had a convo w/ my younger sister about a famous frozen custard joint in St. Louis. We didn't think much about it, until we stumbled across the same place in a magazine! So, of course, we had to try this out for ourselves! ......  We veered off the beaten path to venture through a portion of ol' St. Louie, which didn't appear to be the "better half" of the city. Thankfully, we had GPS to guide our way, but after our 20 minute excursion through the city, we arrived to find the place CLOSED!! ..... Ahh, what a letdown. ...... However, when I'd been searching for it in the GPS, a 2nd location was noted. I told hubs & we decided we'd came this far, we might as well go a little farther & see if perhaps the other location was open. After all, there is no distance too far for ice cream! I figured our chances were slim to none, but to my surprise... it was OPEN! ...... & it was delectable! It was a dark & rainy afternoon, but still well worth the effort. We found the place to be charming. You know, small, kind of run-down looking, filled with teenage employees. Completely old-school, that's why I trusted it. I had a Scotty Oatmeal Cookie Concrete (blizzard) & hubs had a Butterscotch Concrete. Good price, good dessert & gave us the boost to travel that last four hours home!

Since the way home was a straight-shot, rather than stopping in KC, it was a loooooooooong, 12 hour day in the car. My back hasn't been right ever since. Ugh, getting old stinks! Nevertheless, every minute was worth it. We had a great time!!

Very Blessed to have such great family & friends! 2011 has been a phenomenal year! Kinda sad to see it go, but excited to see what 2012 has in store =)

~Happy New Year~

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hittin' the books. . . .

As previously mentioned, I have finally decided what my career shall be. What I know in my heart I was meant to do all along. I am going to be a marriage & family counselor.

When I first had this epiphany & realized this is what I wanted to do, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops! I wanted to share it with the world. I was overcome with glee, because I had spent my entire life, mildly excited about a career, because I hadn't yet discovered my passion! Now, I felt it in the depths of my soul. In my core, I knew & still know I am going to be a counselor.

As I went shouting from the rooftops, the naysayers did follow. "Well, you don't even have a family of your own, what do you know about counseling others?" "You're going to start on a new degree & completely change careers?" "You know how hard that is going to be?" "You know how much of a thankless job that will be?" Oh, the comments went on & on, but not once, not even once have I doubted myself. Not with this.

It's true, at that time, I was a single, 20-something who seemed to know as much about marriage & family counseling as the next guy. Nevertheless, just because I don't already contain the knowledge, wisdom & education it takes to fill this position, doesn't mean I won't in the future. Also, I'm not oblivious to the fact that this career will test me like I have never been tested before. It will cause me to face demons I may not even know I have. It will shake me to my core for situations I have no control over. Oh yes, I know it isn't going to be easy, but I also know, I would not be fulfilling my purpose if I didn't give this everything I've got!

While still living in KC I even found a school that met all of my criteria. I was beyond stoked. I submitted all of my admission's paperwork in record time & anxiously awaited the interview date they had given me. It was a small Christian school, which was only accepting 12 applicants to their program. I was intimidated, but felt good, because I knew God was leading me. I arrived to the day-long interview to find there were 81 total applicants for those 12 spots. Still, I held my ground. A number of signs had pointed me to this school & if God said it was so, then it was so.

Two weeks went by before I received the notice in the mail, informing me all of the spots had been filled, & I was encouraged to apply for the following semester. As I nursed my wounded spirit, a little piece of me couldn't help but rejoice, thinking this means something better is in my future! That extra boost of optimism happened to come from the fact that I had started talking to my now-husband about a month prior to that interview. Months had led up to that interview and the preparation. However, immediately after I started talking with hubs, I thought this might be the one. Only thing is, I was committing myself to 2 years in Kansas, and he was already in Chicago.

I refused to give anything less than my all in that interview because I felt so sure God wanted me to be there. Later, I decided God was continuing to fuel my passion and dedication toward my goal, as He prepared me for my future. All the while, I was taking as many courses in psychology as possible at the community college I was working for. Never knowing, they would all come into play, but at a different institution. As you know, I have now married that amazing man and moved to Chicago. Now, the last piece of this puzzle seems to be fitting into place.

When I looked for jobs in Chicago, I was focused on finding a college I could easily transition to, since I had been working as a Financial Aid counselor ever since I had graduated. It was only after I started, that I began looking through our school's degree programs. I already knew it was a Christian school, but I discovered they also had my master's program, which was even more closely aligned with my goals than the previous school's program. On top of that, they had the elite accreditation I wanted my alma mater to have. That accreditation opens doors for practicing in multiple states. Since you must have state licensure, often counselors have to further their education when they move to a new area. However, this generally supersedes any requirements and ensures a counselor's eligibility to practice in any state. The biggest Blessing is that 80% of my tuition is covered since I work for the institution. I don't know where the good Lord may take me in the future, but for right now, I know I am exactly where I'm supposed to be.


Friday, December 16, 2011

To new beginnings...

It was December of '03 when I graduated with my bachelor's degree. It seemed like it took forever to get that degree. After applying for graduation, I was informed I had a few requirements which hadn't been met. I totally blame it on bad advising. However, I now realize I should have had degree audits done earlier & sought out other advice, rather than learning the hard way that my advisor was as clueless as I had thought. Anyhew, once I graduated, I was so relieved and soooooooo burnt out on school! I declared I would never do homework again. I would never step foot inside a classroom again. End of story. Bachelor's was sufficient. I was happy. I had completed my goal. Book closed.


Fast-forward about 5 years and I found myself in a job that was rather thankless.... making a salary that was sufficient, but showed no signs of progressing... in a position that was stagnant. ....... & basically left me feeling bored & not having a significant impact on myself, let alone anyone else.

I wasn't living up to my potential.

I'm not out to change the world, but I should be able to at least impact the lives I encounter. Problem being, my career has just begun. I have a whole lifetime ahead of me to get burnt out; it can't have already happened! As these thoughts were swirling around my head, and I was contemplating if I would ever discover my true passion, life hit me upside the head.

It was during this time, I experienced a number of personal trials which helped shape me into the woman I am today, nearly 3 years later. It was a growing experience and one in which I feel I can say I am a better person for it. Gratefully, I feel I have overcome the trials presented to me at that point in my life. Rather than let them define me. I defined who I am. I also finally realized who & what I want to be!

My entire life I have found myself drawn to people in need, comforting them through their trials and attempting to give them a sense of hope along with my meager advice. This is what I do, this is who I am. The problem is I'm giving people advice from my limited wisdom. It is merely my opinion. Also, it's something that has seemed so natural to me, but I hadn't had the foresight to realize, it's my calling. So, what am I going to do about it? I'm going to get educated in a field where I can truly live out my purpose and passion and help others.

Shortly after deciding this, I made a personal goal of obtaining my master's by the time I was 30. When I realized what degree I wanted to attain, this seemed fathomable. From that moment on, I began diligently researching schools & programs trying to decide what would be the right fit for me. I rely heavily on my faith and insist that be a part of my training. This is much harder to find than one would think. My other requirement was that I would get an education which opened the doors of opportunity. Not one which limited me to a small pocket of possibilities.

It still took a little time to get here, but I'm happy to say, I have found it! I won't have that degree by 30, but I am enrolled in my first graduate courses by age 30! Elaboration to follow . . .

For the moment, it is elation! =)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Italian Beef

Sounds unsuspecting enough, sure. However, I am quite surprised I had never even heard of it until moving to Chicago. I'm so surprised, because here it is a staple!! It's as significant as a cheeseburger & fries. Seriously! Most all fast-food restaurants have it on the menu. And everybody loves it! You can't, not love it!

It's Italian Beef, people!!

So, for any of you sheltered souls, as I once was, what is this beef I speak of? Well, here's a little preview...

It's thinly sliced beef, tasting similar to Arby's roast beef. I'm sure any true Chicagoan would be offended by that comparison, but that's the best I can come up with. The meat is nestled in a soft, hoagie-of-some-sort bun, adorned with sweet or hot peppers & "dipped" to perfection! Sure you can order it un-dipped, but how boring is that. They dunk the entire sandwich in some type of aun jus dip & it is all moistened & juicy to perfection.

There are a number of chains specializing in specifically italian beef. Al's Beef has been on the Food Network & makes a good sandwich. However, my favorite is Portillo's! Apparently, everybody who is anybody knows about the place, because when you're in there, you see pictures of every celeb you can think of from the last 30 years, posted on the wall, posing with the owner.

However, I do have to say, Al's has the coolest delivery vehicle...

Trust me, when in Chi, seek out some italian beef!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ten Ways to Love

Listen without interrupting (Proverbs 18)
Speak without accusing. (James 1:19)
Give without sparing (Proverbs 21:26)
Pray without ceasing (Colossians 1:9)
Answer without arguing (Proverbs17:1)
Share without pretending (Ephesians 4:15)
Enjoy without complaint (Philippians 2:14)
Trust without wavering (Corinthians 13:7)
Forgive without punishing (Colossians 3:13)
Promise without forgetting (Proverbs 13:12)

I saw this today & found it delightful. Sometimes, the most profound
things can be found in the simplest form.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Happy {early} Birthday!

As previously mentioned, hub's birthday is Christmas day! He's a special kinda guy, so I'm not surprised he shares the day with the Man Upstairs. [Yes, I'm aware we could get into a theological discussion about how Christmas day isn't the actual day of Jesus' birth.]

Anyhow, this is a time of celebration & family & friends & sometimes... chaos!

Therefore, I decided to throw a mini- Happy Early Birthday celebration for him. Yesterday, I had to work late and wanted to drive rather than take the train. Sure, I could have taken the train, but there is a different type-a-cat that rides the train as the night progresses. So, I use late evenings as a reason to get behind the wheel of Lola, cruise a little & then once again, grudgingly remind myself why I prefer not to drive amidst Chicago traffic.

Nevertheless, last night, I also decided to take that opportunity to pick up a little surprise dinner on my way home. Previously, hubs & I have eaten at a cute, little place called 90 Miles Cuban Cafe. A charming little eatery, especially in the summer, when you can eat out on the patio. On a prior venture, he told me how much he'd love to try their red snapper! Being the good wife I am, I made a mental note & saved it away until this perfect opportunity arose!

2nd item on the agenda, stop by his favorite pizza parlor/brewery to pick up a growler of his favorite brew. Piece Pizza has become a favorite & we're pretty much VIP in that place. We discovered one of the waitresses is from Missouri, so we're on a first-name basis. I popped in to grab this jug of his favorite beer. Are you ready for its name?? Dark & Curvy...... Quite fitting, I think!

I had left a note on the fridge not to start dinner, because I'd be home shortly :) Sure enough, he arrived home from work about 20 minutes before me & it was perfect timing. He was totally caught off-guard & shocked that I had planned this little surprise! Perhaps, he was even more impressed that I made it home without getting lost, but that's why I took Brit along with me. He kept me good company, Brit that is, the GPS!

So, my little suprise party was a success :)

BUT ........ there was one, leetle slip up. Somewhere, along my journey, I do believe I was captured by a red-light camera!! =0 I was cruising along, trying to find my way to this restaurant & the light may have been about orange as I decided to gun it through the intersection. However, I wasn't thinking about the nice ticket one gets around here for doing so. All I saw was a flash of lights in every direction. It must be what the celebs feel like when the paparazzi ambush them. However, I'm sure my cover photo is going to be me, giving my Oh sh*t! face. They say it takes about 4-5 weeks before the ticket shows up in the mail, so that little gift should be arriving shortly after Christmas. ~JOY~

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's Friday Night!!!

Know what that means?? . . . . . . . .

Date night with my baby!!!

Before starting a family, we know there are a number of luxuries we're afforded & we equally agree we need to enjoy them while we can!!! Such as: sleeping in on Saturday mornings, late night trips to the ice cream shop, hitting up happy hour after work, couple's vacations & the list goes on & on. For us, date night is definitely one of them :)

Since moving to Chi, we almost immediately made Friday evenings "our time." We pick some new restaurant or one we've already decided is a fav & we get dressed up & go out on the city. After dinner, we stick around for a few cocktails, or we head to a local spot. I won't say hot spot, because we're not cool enough to be that trendy. Neither of us believe in paying to get in, waiting in line or paying double-digits for a drink. Therefore, we've found a handful of charming little hole-in-the-walls where we set up shop!

We have a small selection of breweries which usually win out on our bids of where to go. In Chi, I have discovered the craft of craft beer. Not that long ago, I would have turned up my nose to any beer stein in which I couldn't clearly see through the pilsner, straight to the other side. However, surprising to myself, I've developed a taste for those stouter suds. I've decided I don't like hoppy. No IPA's, the bitter bite is too much for my palette. However, I can appreciate the dark, chocolaty notes of a porter, a filling wheat-beer or a smooth, fruity & flavorful hefeweizen.

Neither of us drink more than a few. We're not out to get drunk, just enjoying a cold beer & good convo with our favorite person. So, if you're ever in the Chi, don't be surprised if we drag you into one of our hot spots and order you a porter! Compliments of our refined tastes, unofficially coined, beer connoisseurs, will do our best to convert you!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I've got rubbers!

Well, that's what I call them...

I haven't worn anything like this since I was about 7! Back then, I think we referred to them as galoshes, but you could also jump into those puppies with your shoes on. I insisted that I had to have a pair of these. Hubs agreed & now I am ready for my first, CHICAGO winter.

(but shhush, don't say it too loud, I'm not that enthused about it.)

 When living in Chicago, ladies seem to go one of two ways........... cute or practical. ...... I, my friends, am practical! So, yes, I will be wearing these clodhoppers all winter & happily prancing along all the while. I will arrive at work with dry feet & pants, even if there is a foot of snow! 

The cold has barely hit. Nevertheless, it has hit. Recently, it was in the 20's, while I stood on the train platform awaiting my morning chauffeur, & what did I notice? There are some crazy girls, wearing cute, little, short coats, no gloves, no scarves & no hats! .......Well, they can catch a cute, little cold too, but I will wear my rubbers & happily dress like the abominable snowman!!