I love my black history

It is Black History Month!  While we are busy celebrating some amazing and famous people in history, I chose to make it a point to celebrate a few important people in my life who I have learned so much from.

My grandmothers:

My paternal grandmother inspires me.  Every time I have a conversation with my grandmother, I feel that anything is possible.  She has a way of making all of her nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren feel special.  I am sure part of this comes from knowing the difficulties of raising four children herself.  My grandmother has never missed a birthday, she has a close relationship to my mother, and I feel like I have just been “pep-talked” after each conversation.

My paternal grandmother

 

My maternal grandmother (Granny):

Granny reminds me how hard my people have worked.  Granny was born and raise in a tiny town in South Carolina named Pamplico.  2011 population: 1,236. Despite living in a small, tight-knit community, Granny has many stories of injustice.  She once told me a story about her walk to school.  During this time, blacks went to separate schools and had separate buses. Every day during her walk, the bus with the whites would drive past them.  Some of them would throw rocks at her while she tried to go to school.  My granny reminds me that my ancestors, my family and others in the black community worked hard so that I can go after all of my dreams.

My granny with my sister and me in the early 1990s.

 

My mother:

If my grandmother inspires me, and my granny reminds me, then I have to say my mother is a fusion of the two.  She is a role model of the person I want to be.  My mother left the tiny town of Pamplico at age 18 and joined the military.  She got married and had two kids before the age of 30.  She retired from the military at the young age of 38.  Afterward, my mother worked her butt off to get her dream job inside the Pentagon!  That was not enough for my mom.  She knew she wanted to do more so she decided to serve our country in a civilian manner and took a job in Afghanistan! My mother is a product of what all the civil rights activists fought for.  Nothing is impossible for my mother.

My mother when she just joined the military.

Hopefully, I too will be a black historymaker in someone’s eyes.  Each time I want to procrastinate or feel the work is too much, I remind myself of these three wonderful women.  I remind myself that they accomplished all their dreams in much harsher time periods and anything is possible if I continue to work hard for my dreams.

My graduation in 2011.

Hard work will pay off

The weather in Chicago never ceases to amaze me. What looked like snow was really rain in disguise! I don’t understand the weather, although I probably should. Not sure if other people feel this way (to those whom it applies), but every time the weather changes, my allergies go NUTS. I am stuffy and sniffling and can’t sleep. I haven’t gotten much sleep the past two weeks because I’ve been staying up studying for the MCAT, going into the research lab very early in the morning and working on HAC (I can’t wait to go to Clemente High School in March and April!).

I have two exams on Valentine’s Day, one in biochemistry and one in homeostasis. I’m not too thrilled, especially since I haven’t studied the material very in-depth or had time to catch up with the reading. There are so many demands every day! :(

But nevertheless, the lack of sleep and crummy allergies/bad skin will hopefully just be a minor bump in the road for my success this semester. I know that I will have to work even harder in the next coming months, but with every assignment or thing to do, I know that the end goal will be worth it! So, for those of you who are not “feeling” the good prospects for the semester, don’t fret! We can all do this and indeed, hard work will pay off.

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day! This past Sunday was Chinese New Year for those who were not aware. It’s the year of the snake! :D Any snakes out there? Born in 1989 perhaps? Wishing everyone the best.

Changes, changes.

Howdy!

As we approach our fifth week of the semester, I’m feeling pretty confident about a lot of different things. Change isn’t hard, but it’s certainly manageable.

For one, I’ve decided not to run for vice president of the Undergraduate Student Government again. After two terms, I’ve had a great time as vice president and have been able to accomplish a lot. As elections approach, I decided to run for an assembly member position instead.

I decided not to run for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason is that next academic year I will be a senior. During my last year at UIC, I want to be able to dive myself more fully into my internships. If all goes as planned, I will be only taking 12 credits for both semesters next year. This will allow me to be able to balance out school work and internship time. I will not be leaving USG because I have worked so hard the past three years to help strengthen this important organization on campus. With that said, my second reason for not running is because I want to help train the next vice president to be as effective, if not better, than I was during my time. I trust that the next vice president will be great. As we find out the official candidates next week, I will gladly endorse one that I am confident in. Next year, I hope to be a committee chair in USG and still provide help to the future leaders of the organization.

On a personal level, I have learned how to focus better during homework time! Like most students, I tend to procrastinate before doing papers and other assignments. However, after some research and a trip to The Vitamin Shoppe, I found Focus Formula! Simply put, it’s a multivitamin that has ingredients to help you focus and have a better memory. This past week, I have been taking two at dinner and am able to fully indulge myself into homework after. The results have been amazing. Not only am I getting my homework done faster, but I’m also going ahead on assignments as well! I promise this is not some silly advertisement. I’m loving the product so much that I want to share it with all of you!

Change is certainly good.

-Mike

Happy St. Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is here.  Some people believe it’s just a “Hallmark” holiday.  Well, maybe.  But I can’t help but feel the love in the air throughout the month of February.  I am very lucky to have a wonderful guy in my life and I am excited to be spending our third Valentine’s Day together.  One year, we made dinner at home.  Another year, we went to a Bulls game.  This year, we are going to a restaurant called Devon Seafood. I am BEYOND excited!!

But some people hate Valentine’s Day.  Why? Well, I guess there shouldn’t have to be a day to REMIND you to celebrate the love with your significant other.  You should celebrate it every day. I know, cheesy.  But it’s true.  I know how life can be crazy making it easy to forget.  And it’s super important to tell the people in your life how much they mean to you, right?  Significant others, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, cousins…whoever!  If you’re not one for emotions, use this day to say “I love you.”  And if you’re single, there is always a reason to celebrate.  One of my most memorable V-Days was when I went out with all of my girlfriends and we went dancing. It was so much fun!

When I was doing some brainstorming about this blog post, I realized that I really don’t know the history behind the holiday.  I know that it has Catholic ties, but really…who is St. Valentine?

According to what I have read, the facts about who St. Valentine was, is still to this day, a bit murky.  There were a few saints recognized as Valentine.  One story is that during the reign of Emperor Claudius II in third century Rome, he outlawed marriage because he believed that single men made better soldiers.  Supposedly, Valentine continued to perform marriages in secret because he believed it was unjust to outlaw marriage but unfortunately it was revealed and he was put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine was imprisoned and fell in love with the jailor’s daughter, sending her the first Valentine and concluding it with “From your Valentine.”  http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day

 

Need ideas of what to do for your valentine?  Whether you are attached or single, there is no reason not to celebrate the people you love in your life.

1) Check out Groupon.  I love Groupon and they have a special Valentine’s Day page.  There is something for everyone!

http://www.groupon.com/valentines-day

2) GUYS….flowers and chocolate…nuff said.

3) GIRLS…guys like to be pampered, too. 

4) If you do plan on going out to dinner with your man or woman, a cool aspect that restaurants have to offer for Valentine’s Day is a special menu.  But make sure you take a look at the menu first, their Valentine’s menus are usually much smaller and make your reservation early!!

                                            HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY EVERYONE!!!

 

15 pages in assignments each week?…Uh oh!!!

We are not even halfway into the semester and I am already overwhelmed!  Who knew my last semester of grad school would be so busy?  Currently my weekly assignments look as follows:

GWS 485 – Gender and politics.  Each week we have to read a book and write a three-page summary on each book due the day before class.

GWS 502 – Feminist Knowledge Production.  Each week we are assigned readings and required to write an annotated bibliography, which comes out to about three or four pages.

CLJ 500 – Law and Society.  Each week we are required to write a two- to three-page summary on each article assigned.  We are usually assigned four to five articles each week.

So lets do the math: I write and print about 15 pages each week in assignments alone!! The poor trees!

On top of all of these school requirements, I am also looking for employment.  I am currently attempting to apply for about 15 to 20 jobs each month.  This give me time to draft a cover letter each day of the week. Not to mention many of the jobs I am applying for require letters of recommendation from former supervisors or professors!!

I literally have no time!  I’m pretty sure my boyfriend is tired of us utilizing our time together analyzing the works of Foucault, Durkheim and Plato.  He is sweet for helping me, but I am pretty sure he just wants to watch “The Walking Dead!”

In order to cope with the demands of the semester, I utilize a huge color-coordinated calendar.  I list each class’s assignments, any due dates for jobs I’m applying for, as well as work-related due dates and events.

The only good thing about having all these assignments is that in the process I have become a stronger writer.  I know how to analyze theoretical works easier.  I feel like I am finally the graduate student I want to be (too bad it’ll ends in a few months!!).

Next week, I hope to catch up with school and take advantage of things going on in the city! Granted the weather makes up its mind about which season it wants to be in!

So…how do you stay organized?!?

Remembering family

In my ASAM 105 Seminar, we finished reading a graphic novel called “Level Up” and it was such a great read. In summary, it’s basically about a son who was told by his father that he had to become a doctor and not waste time on video games, etc. He drops out of college and even upon entering medical school drops out to live his dream of becoming a professional video gamer (sorry for all of the spoilers). It’s so good and it really got me thinking about how I have been influenced to go the path that I have chosen (or, could this path had been consciously laid out already?). I even made my cousin, a doctor himself, and my brother read it! My brother wasn’t as enlightened as I was, but he couldn’t put the book down upon picking it up so I think that was a sign he found it interesting. At the end of the book (close your eyes if you don’t want to know!), he ends up still going back to medical school.

We weren’t able to have a class discussion that day, but I’m curious as to how UIC students have chosen their majors (or have not chosen yet) and what is really influencing them (or not influencing them if they are making their “own damn choices” as the character Kat from the book says we do). The general consensus from the mini-discussion I had seemed to be that it’s mixed, but my brother is all for Kat’s perspective. As for me, I still ponder a little here and there (especially since I have been brainstorming for awhile on what to write for my personal statement).

I had a weird feeling when I was home two weekends ago. We had gone to visit my grandpa since it has been a whole year.

Wow. So I went to revisit the post I had written last year about it and tears just raced out of my eyes. I still can’t believe I can react like that…it’s been so long and I forgot what he looked like when he had cancer. It was such a difficult time for me and my family…ugh I hate how emotional I can be sometimes. I always feel like I’m weak because of it. My mom tells me all the time that I have to be stronger and stop crying over things, especially with my skin. When inflammation hits, the eczema gets so bad that I can’t stop scratching my face and I just bleed and cry and complain: “I hate my skin. I just want to die than put up with this.”

Visiting Ye Ye

It wasn't the whole family, but it was enough. My cousin works for Target and had gotten my grandma one of those Target dog plushes (I think his name is Spot?) for Christmas and she wanted to get one for our grandpa, too. She was scared the wind would blow it away or a naive kid would take it and run (that'd be so terrible) so she and her boyfriend got a cute gazebo-type apparatus and painted it red, housing the pup and also nailing it down so it won't move. My grandma is here on the right of the photo. I wonder what she feels inside when she thinks about my grandpa. I can't fathom losing a person you've known and endured with for 70 years! I already can't fathom with the 19 years I had knowing and being with him. It was very cold...

How many times have we all said that line? You know, “I just want to die.” I hate when I use that phrase. It’s never the answer. But sometimes emotions just take us down and we can only say what no one wants to hear. How do we bounce back? And when we do bounce back, how can we actually “overcome” the hardship?

I don’t think you really do. Even when things are resolved, per se, it still has existence in your emotional pool. You might not be outright bawling, but you might flinch or blink a little less because you’re caught in a moment in the past. With relationships, it’s the worst! Remember all of those friends we used to be close to and you guys either drifted, or one person just decided it was “over” because of a conflict? Regrets are regrets, but to think about it for more than five minutes is super unhealthy and changes your thinking in seconds. I’m always hit with this whenever I go home. I have a little box dedicated to special memories with people I used to be friends with, but now that I’m older I think it may just be better to have it as a memory in my head and to burn the evidence because it will only hurt me on the inside when I see it again.

Okay, this post is getting really off-topic and tangential. The weather has been crazy cold outside and I am not (nor my eczema) digging it, especially when I get out of my Kaplan class at 9 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays! I mainly just wanted to commemorate my grandfather and encourage everyone to keep in touch with their loved ones or be aware of your emotions and how they affect you so that the next time something “hits” you, you can be rational and strong for yourself and your family/peers.

Also, Happy February! Valentine’s day is around the corner…<3

LOL @ UIC review

“Welcome to Good Burger, home of the good burger, can I take your order?!”

If you know that reference, you probably know Kenan Thompson, star of many of the ’90s kid’s TV shows and “Saturday Night Live.” He was the comedy act for the first ever “LOL @ UIC” last Thursday.

The event, hosted by Campus Programs, was free and heavily advertised. Through Twitter, I was able to win VIP passes to the show. I brought my friend to the show and snagged some great third-row seats.

As Kenan is pretty famous for being hilarious on television and making many laugh, I had high expectations for the show. However, I felt like he wasn’t quite able to meet them.

The show was about an hour long. For the first 30 minutes, Kenan talked to about his life to a large audience full of students at the UIC Forum. He seemed to be a bit bored and tired, often complaining about the crappy weather outside. While rambling on about the TV shows and movies he starred in and the crazy days he has had as a celebrity, he often inserted some hilarious jokes. He even called a few audience members out for leaving the room to use the bathroom or coming in to the show late.

However, I had thought stand-up comedy was when a comedian would ramble on about crazy adventures or cite stories that would keep the audience gasping for air. Kenan seemed to just ramble without having any zest. He even stated that he was not particularly good at stand up when he auditioned for SNL. It then hit me that he is more of a film actor than a stand-up comic.

For the last 30 minutes, Kenan did a Q&A with the students. Some of the questions that were asked, however, were just a waste of time. Many asked for personal favors, like how to get themselves on television, to sing an autograph or to make a special shout out on SNL for them. Kenan didn’t seem to be very happy about this. Even when there were good questions, he kind of just brushed them off…unwillingly to fully answer them. He usually responded with “Uh… I don’t know…hmmm.” He didn’t even want to reenact some of his most famous characters from his long career.

After an hour, Kenan ended the show and went backstage for a meet and greet with VIP pass holders. Luckily, I was one of those people. Despite my disappointment with his routine, I was still excited to meet one of the people who consistently entertained me as a child. Even though he might not be the best stand-up comic, he is still a great sketch and film actor.

Backstage, Kenan still seemed disinterested. I guess I just expected him to be bubbly and outgoing, like the hilarious characters he portrayed. He could just be one of those people that are more shy off stage than on. He was still content with signing autographs and taking pictures with his fans. I even was able to express my appreciation for one of his SNL acts with Madonna and Lady GaGa. I was appreciative for his time.

Despite my disappointment with Kenan’s act, the “LOL @ UIC” event itself was a fantastic idea. I think that it was a decent first try for this new tradition. I’m positive that next year it’ll be even better and will get better throughout the years. It was truly refreshing to see all the students that showed up for a good time. It made UIC seem more like a community, which is something that is always good for school spirit.

Did you attend the show? What were your thoughts?

What if…?

I have been reading a lot of “Curious George” to the 2-year-old I nanny.  He loves them.  He always says, “Hat…hat!,”  which means he wants to read “Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat.”  It’s made me a bit curious myself lately. Have you ever thought, “What if?”

As I have said in previous blogs, I have been feeling a bit broke lately.  That’s due to a couple things that I don’t need to get into because really…everyone has money problems.  So, I’ve been thinking, what would I do if I had all the money I needed?  I know exactly what I would do.  I would pay off my debt, pay off my family’s debt, buy a condo in the city and save the rest.

What if we didn’t need to sleep? Can you imagine how much we could get done?  I thought of this when I couldn’t sleep the other night.  My mind was racing, as usual, and I thought, “Wow…I could be studying right now instead of trying to fall asleep, which isn’t happening.”  If I could even function on a couple hours of sleep, I still could get so much done.  I read something once that described a man who had some type of disease that inhibited him from sleep.  Doctors didn’t know what caused it or how to treat it.  The man ended up passing away after 6 months of no sleep.  So, lack of sleep CAN kill you, literally.  That’s a pretty extreme example, though.

What if you could choose any profession to have any day, at any time and had the knowledge to do so?  One day you could be a teacher…the next a doctor…and after that a movie star?  They did say I could do whatever I wanted to do when I grew up. I changed my answer a lot as a child.  Although, movie star/singer was definitely up there along with astronaut and doctor.  I also thought about yoga instructor, physical therapist and news anchor.

What if you could do something so insanely dangerous and know that you COULD NOT die doing it?  What would it be? (Twenty minutes later)…..Annnndd I think I just stumped myself.  I have no idea what I would do. At first I thought, oh definitely skydiving.  But most people wouldn’t consider that insanely dangerous. I’m just a big baby.  Years ago, a group of friends and I drove all the way to a place past Six Flags in Gurnee to a skydiving place.  I was TOTALLY chicken and opted out as soon as we got there.  Luckily, it was too cloudy to do it anyway.

If you didn’t have to pay for school, would you continue to get degree after degree?  I would.  I love being in school.  I would totally go for my Ph.D. if I didn’t have to add to my already whopping student loan bill.  I mean, think about it!!  Dr. Lauren! I like how that sounds. :)

What if you could eat anything you want and not get fat?  MY DREAM!

What if you could afford plastic surgery?  Would you do it?  We all have things that maybe we don’t like about our appearances. I probably wouldn’t get RID of anything…just move some stuff around! :)

Lastly….What if the Chicago Blackhawks win the 2013 Stanley Cup????? Here’s hoping!! Go Blackhawks!!

Just a quick shout out to my CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS!!! THEY’RE KICKING BUTT THIS YEAR! STANLEY CUP….HERE WE COME!!!

 

LOL @ UIC? OMG!

Wow, we are not even halfway into the semester and so many crazy things are happening on campus!

First: UIC recreation had RECExperience LIVE last week.  There was free rock climbing, fitness class marathons and pretty cool raffles!  I was there teaching during the fitness marathon with six other instructors. I stayed the entire time and my body was very sore!  It’s amazing how dedicated many of the people were!

Some pictures from the RecExperience Live Group Fitness Marathon

 

Secondly, I was so excited to hear that Campus Programs was hosting LOL @ UIC: free event tonight that features Keenan Thompson! The free show starts at 7 p.m. at the UIC Forum.

LOL @ UIC!

UIC undergrads have no idea how good they’ve got it!  Back in MY early days at UIC, we did not have A-List celebrities at the annual Spark in the Park….because there WAS NO Spark in the Park.  If we wanted to see A-List celebrities….we turned on MTV!

Another great change I have been noticing going on at UIC is a huge push to get students more involved in supporting the athletic department.  During my undergrad years, there were no wacky, waving inflatable arm-flailing tubemen to get us pumped up for the big games.

He waved and smiled for the camera!

It is pretty cool browsing through my Facebook newsfeed and seeing so many people excited for UIC athletes.  Next time, I won’t live vicariously through their Facebook updates, but instead actually go to a game myself!

So are there other excited thing still going on on campus?

There are ALWAYS things going on on campus!

Campus Programs,  UIC Campus Rec and UIC’s calendar of events are just a few places to check out if you are looking for something fun, informative or new to do on campus!  Take advantage of all UIC has to offer because you guys have it oh-so easy!  

Learn not by yourself but with others

It has only been two weeks or so and my brain has been jam-packed. I do not recall having such an intensive beginning compared to last semester. Perhaps I went a bit overboard when I did my pre-reading and extreme note-taking before classes, only to later realize the instructors were not going to cover any of that and all of the books that I had gotten were not to be read in-depth compared to the presentation lectures/slides that will be tested. Let me tell you, I wanted to flip! I think I’m still in the “getting used to” phase, but I really need to snap out of it!

Sushi with Alaina at Kohan

I had dinner with Alaina at Kohan! We were both craving some yummy sushi. I should probably keep that off my diet since my eczema has been going nuts, but I couldn't resist! I honestly don't know where my self-diligence has gone. It was lovely catching up with her on things and hearing all of the new opportunities that await her in her graphic design career!

I have been finding myself more prone to sleeping in as much as possible until classes start. The original plan was to wake up early and do homework or study like a good, diligent student does. Why is that not happening?

Snowing in January!

It's been crazy cold lately! I took this picture when I was coming out of my genetics class. The quad and snow...

Last semester, I was super on top of it. I always woke up early and did everything right (hence, my grades improved tremendously!). The only thing that is different this semester, I’d say, would be that I am not working my bazillion part-time jobs…and MAYBE that’s the reason I’m being such a slacker! I’m always ready and on time for work because I have to be…but when it comes to school and studying…I just can’t treat it in the same respect as a part-time job and it really bugs me. All of this free time just to study…it’s almost wasteful! But I know it is not because the investment is to score well on the MCAT and get good grades (hoping to aim for straight As and actually get that at the end).

Of course, no one can do that on their own unless they’re an absolute genius (grrrr I want your brain!). But, it’s not a bad thing! I’m completely dumb and never thought about it before, but the people in my pre-med club are taking the exact same classes that I am! STUDY BUDDIES? I think yes! It’s been proven on many accounts that studying with others is effective. I just haven’t been doing that method of studying because I’m so anti-social and busy…but now I do have time! And, you wouldn’t let down a friend as you would let down yourself, at least in my opinion. I feel that right now what I need is someone to keep me in check, and likewise many of my peers seek that extra “push” to get things done. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship!

So far I have asked people in my Health Activism Committee if they would like to form study groups (for classes and MCAT) and so far the response has been very high. I’m very excited to get started because I know we are all going to learn a lot, build friendships along the way and hopefully all attain our life goals! Haha.

Optimism is key! ^_^

While it’s still early in the semester, go and make friends in your classes! See your TAs and professors. I know I haven’t been doing that but maybe you will (and you should). Make everything count this semester. =)