Category: Living

Living at UIC: res halls (dorms), food, getting around campus.

College kitchen essentials & recipes

I realize that I don’t have a kitchen and haven’t had one at any point in college, but I pretty much feel like I do because my boyfriend has been needing some help in this department. It’s his first time having to cook for himself and not having a meal plan for the cafeteria. He isn’t complaining, and I can see why; it would be awesome to be able to cook every day. But with school, internships, student orgs, and whatever else is going on, it can be hard to find the time to cook a decent meal (or so he tells me). Plus it isn’t always easy to find time to go to the grocery store.

For someone with a busy schedule who has to make themselves meals, making a plan for what you will be eating that week or for the next two weeks is essential. You won’t have the time or energy to go to the store every day/couple of days and get what you need, so trying to get it taken care of in one trip at a time is beneficial. This way you can make a shopping list and know what you are supposed to buy when you go to the store and not have to wander around aimlessly.

Make sure you are bookmarking or somehow saving recipes that you see so that you don’t get to the point where you are eating ramen or PB&J every day. Having your own kitchen is an absolute benefit because you have the choice to eat healthy, so don’t (literally) weigh yourself down with junk food or super easy/frozen meals all of the time. Keep your recipes somewhere and try to have a variety of things.

Don’t let yourself run out of essentials. Every person may have a different list of staple items for their kitchen, but here are a few things that you might want to keep on hand at all times:



-olive oil




-fruit and/or vegetables

-rice and/or pasta

-your comfort snack/dessert

-salad dressing

I’m sure I’m missing things on this list, and there are also things that are personalized for each person. But the point is- don’t run out of things you’ll always expect to have. Especially since you’ll need them for a lot of different things.

Things you pretty much need in your kitchen to survive (or so I’ve convinced my boyfriend):

-pots, pans, dishes of ASSORTED SIZES

-measuring cups and spoons

-pizza cutter

-baking supplies

-microwave plate cover

-sharp knife

-can opener

-water filter/Brita

-set of plates, bowls, etc.


-cooking utensils

-ice cream scoop


If you’re already running low on ideas for things to cook, here are some ideas I have for you.

1. Quesadillas: These are so easy to make…at least my cheat version. You will need:


-shredded monterey jack cheese

-optional: chicken, cubed

Lay a tortilla on a plate. Sprinkle the cheese all over. If desired, add the chicken. Cover with second tortilla. Place in microwave for 30 seconds to a minute. Take it out, cut it up, and eat! Told you-simple.

2. Chicken Caesar Salad. You will need:

-chicken, cubed or sliced

-bag salad or romaine

-caesar salad dressing (or any other kind of dressing)

Put it all together. Ta-da!

3. Baked meatball subs. You will need:

-sandwich roll(s)

-shredded mozzarella cheese


- sauce

Cook your meatballs. If they are frozen, the instructions will most likely call for you to cook them in a pot over the stove in sauce. Do this! Slice open bun/sandwich roll and place it on a cookie sheet. Spread some sauce on bread. Add the meatballs. Cover with mozzarella cheese and then more sauce. Cook at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

4. Fajitas. You will need:


- green, red, yellow pepper (any, all, just one…up to you)


-monterey jack cheese

-chicken (optional)

Cut the peppers, onion, and chicken into slices. Cook them in a stir fry pan until done. Warm tortillas in microwave. Spread cooked peppers, onion, and chicken and cover with monterey jack cheese.

5. Stir Fry. You will need:


-peppers, snap peas, carrots, broccoli…as many or as few veggies as you want!

-chicken/beef/no meat (optional)

Cook your rice as directed. Set aside. In a stir fry pan (how unusual), put cut up vegetables and meat. Cook until done. Put finished product over rice.

6. English Muffin Pizzas. You will need:

-English Muffins

-pizza sauce

-any toppings (pepperoni, sausage, etc.)

-mozzarella cheese

Warm up your oven to 400 degrees. Cut english muffins in half and lay out on cookie sheet. Spread marinara. Top with any pepperoni, sausage, whatever. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Remove from the oven when cheese looks melted.

7. Tuna salad. You will need:

-1 or more cans of tuna




Open and drain tuna. Add into mixing bowl. Shred carrot over bowl. Drop in relish and mayonnaise as needed. Stir. Put salad on crackers, bread, etc.

8. Ham, cheddar and ranch wrap. You will need:


-ham from deli

-cheddar cheese, shredded or sliced

-ranch dressing

Lay out tortilla. Put down two pieces of ham. Include cheese and spread ranch dressing. Roll up and eat!

There you have it. Hopefully you got a few more ideas and will continue to think of more. When you go shopping, have a plan and know what things will help you make multiple meals (ex: in the above cases, a package of tortillas can go a long way.).

The recipes I provided are obviously not the absolute healthiest, but they aren’t all bad for you. There are a million other things that can be made. It’s just a matter of setting aside the time to figure out what you are going to do.

Good luck! Enjoy your meal.

Dear Sarah, age 10…

♪♫♪ I don’t know why all the trees change in the fall, I know you’re not scared of anything at all / Don’t know if Snow White’s house is near or far away but I know I had the best day with you today…

Dear Sarah (age 10),

Hi there, it’s me (I mean, you) – but ten years older. Actually, it’s 2014, you’re 20 years old now, and you’re a junior in college, if you can believe it. Twenty. Years. Old. Do you even know what that means? To be double the length of your life so far? Of course you think you do. Because right now you think you know what everything means – and you’re very wrong about that – and you even think you already have the next ten or even twenty years of your life mapped out.

Well…Sarah? You’re wrong. Sweet and naïve, but completely wrong. Take your daily walk to and from Robert E. Clow Elementary School right now, and you’ll realize that your whole world is basically contained within the four block radius between your house and the grade school playground – and even that walk has been “supervised” by your big brother Bob for the past five or so years when you walk together to school every morning and he waits for you by the door every afternoon after the last school bell rings. But Bob also just turned 12 years old, and he just moved on over to Gordon Gregory Middle School across the street from the house. Sure, now Mom says you’ll be able to walk to school and back home alone everyday, but let’s be real – you’re still not stepping foot out of this subdivision alone.

But hey, this isn’t a bad thing. That’s not what I’m trying to point out at all. It’s not like you’ve never gone anywhere or done anything fun. Mom and Dad are always the best at making sure there was some kind of family vacation every year, and it’s always the best time no matter where the destination is. At the age of 10, you’ve been to Taiwan, Japan, England, Canada, and a smatter of the states across America. That’s more than some people at age 20 could say! Whether we’re all on the road to Six Flags or aboard a ten hour flight across the globe, you always knew it would be good time because Mom, Dad, and Bob were there to make it fun (and keep you safe).

Feeling safe – that also means more than you can imagine right now, because you just accept it without much thought. You’re going to keep taking it for granted for years before you realize just how sheltered with protection you were, and once you do realize it, make sure you keep the best memories and never let them go. Remember falling asleep in the car late at night as Dad was driving? You can’t remember where you were all going, but you as long as Dad was driving, we would all get there. And with that, remember falling asleep everywhere? But miraculously, no matter where you ended up – the living room, the backyard, the car – you would always wake up tucked in your bed the next morning.

Or even memories you thought you would leave behind but still come to mind, ten years from now. Remember snuggling close to Mom in that tiny bed at Sleeper’s Inn in London? The TV hummed with an English talk show that neither of you could make sense of. Remember wandering about Chinatown with Bob when Mom and Dad were working at their office? And that one time when Bob spent his allowance buying you Sailor Moon trading cards just because he knew you were eyeing them and it was your favorite show at the time.

Think about all the times you drew sketches of Dad because you told him you wanted to be an artist and he humored you by dressing up in a nice suit and tie so you could practice by drawing him – even though they always came out quite awful-looking – and he always told you they were just wonderful when you were done coloring them in with crayons and color pencils. Just so you know, Dad kept all of those messy pictures, and they’re still in his office right now.

There’s a lot you don’t understand yet, and probably one of the biggest things is just how lucky you are. It’s easy for people to label you that way just because you grew up in Naperville in a nice, safe subdivision that had highly rated schools and teachers – but you know it goes deeper than that. You were surrounded by love since the day you were born, and that’s something rare in the world. Sarah, if I could do anything for you, it would be to slow time for you right now to a standstill and let you be 10 years old forever. Your family has always protected you, steadfast and unfailingly reliable, and if you be honest with yourself, you’ve never properly thanked them for that. Sadly, it might even be several years before you fully comprehend what kind of sacrifices they have made for you to succeed and get to where you will be at age 20.

Your brother, Bob – he’s your biggest hero right now, and frankly nothing’s going to change much when it comes to that. But for goodness sake, grow up already and stop pouting and whining so much when he beats you at Sonic Adventure or Super Smash Brothers on the Gamecube. Trust me, whenever you win, he’s just letting you anyway. And wow, I hope you memorized what it’s like to share a room with him and sleep on a bunk bed – because that’s never gonna happen again. You might bicker a lot now, but believe it or not, there’s going to come a time when you really, really miss it. Soon he’s going to want privacy and more space, and he’ll move into the bigger guest room after your cousin Pam graduates from high school and goes to college. And even then, you’ll still stick to him like glue and spend all your time with him anyway, because you secretly always loved just watching him play his video games even more than joining him and playing yourself. You’re going to keep having epic “Beanie Babies” wars with him, and he’ll dress up your little toys with paper armor and make amazing tanks and planes out of Legos and K’nex. You’ll make stupid bets with him with the loser having to go downstairs and get soda or snacks. You’ll stay up late watching anime on Cartoon Network late into the night on his TV until you fall asleep in his room and he gripes for you to wake up and go to bed. Hold on to this for as long as you can because it won’t last long. You know how smart Bob is, and he’ll soon graduate middle school and head over to IMSA, the math and science academy where he’ll live at a boarding school for high school with other impossibly smart kids. And even if you won’t say it to his face, you’ll miss him so awfully much every single day when you have to go to school by yourself and can’t come home to watch cartoons with him.

And of course, you have your mom and dad’s tireless support. That’s something – the most important thing – that’s not going to change anytime soon. If you can, could you just take a minute to thank them for it? You don’t see it yet but they’re not infallible either. They get tired, worried, angry, and scared, and you do a lot of thing that don’t help with that too. They deserve some appreciation. And for heaven’s sake, stop being such a brat to your mom when she takes you shopping for new shoes and clothes. Yes you think it’s unbearably boring and just want to go read books and magazines instead, but trust me when I say there will come a time when you want to go shopping for clothes and you’ll wish your mom was there to give you advice.

And you have so much time on your hands, would you just practice piano today?! You love it and in just a few years you’ll be busy enough and wish you had time just to fool around with music.

Things like grief, fear, stress, anxiety, shame…all of these terrible, terrible things are just words to you right now. You think you know what they are, but you don’t. And I wish it could stay that way for you, but it can’t. The next 10 years are not going to be easy for you, and many changes are coming very soon. But I can offer you one condolence: I promise that you will be able to handle whatever comes. A lot’s going to happen, and if I could write you a life manual for every year, month, week, day of it, I would – because trust me, there are times that you’re going to feel completely lost and hopeless as to what to do, and sometimes (often, actually) you’ll make the wrong choice. You’re going to cry, get your heart broken, miss people who don’t miss you back, and make all kinds of mistakes. But don’t worry – you make plenty of right choices too. There’s going to be people who walk into your life and stay, and you’re going to go places you never imagined and make memories you keep with you for tens of years to come. And in ten years time, it’s all going to lead you to people and a place that you’re happy with – that I’m happy with – today.

Alright Sarah, you got this. Last tidbit of advice: never stop writing, no matter how awful things are and even if you’ll cringe at it later, because writing will always make you feel a bit better. You’re gonna be fine.

With love,

Sarah (age 20)

And I love you for giving me your eyes, for staying back and watching me shine / And I didn’t know if you knew so I’m taking the chance to say I had the best day with you today ♪♫♪

(The Best Day - Taylor Swift)

Favorite parts of summer

My summer is officially over, which is really upsetting. But I am happy to get my final year started and get on the road toward graduating. I’ve made a lot of awesome memories these past three months…

Even though I was originally reluctant about the idea of going, traveling to St. Louis for a few days was my favorite memory of the summer. Kevin and I had such a great time on our first vacation together, and I’ll never forget the trip. I’m ready for another vacation already!

I’ve had so much fun with Bear all summer; between walks and playing, I don’t know what I’m going to do without him every day at school. My favorite thing we’ve done this summer is swim. I don’t have a picture of him doing it, but he’s such a great swimmer, and he loves it! Who would’ve thought that a little sheltie would be so into swimming? It’s so cute to see how excited he gets when we open the gate by the pool. He knows it’s time for him to get in, and he freaks out.

I know I talk about my internship all the time…I do realize it. But I had such a great experience and already miss going in to the office and finding out what the day holds. I really enjoyed going in to work in the morning…don’t think many people say that…

I also got to spend two nights in the emergency room for my internship. We had different reporters and videographers from the media come out to witness our level I trauma center. Staying overnight and seeing the doctors and nurses work under such pressure was incredible. The teamwork there is unlike anything I have ever seen. I’m so glad I got to witness this.

A final thing about my internship-getting to see stories I wrote on Advocate’s health enews website and seeing my stories picked up by the media. This made me feel really successful and like I did something that transcends my time at my internship. It’s like I really made a mark. Very gratifying.

Ice cream! Need I say more? I made sure to eat as much ice cream as possible this summer. I’m pretty sure that was a great choice.

I spent a lot of time trying out new recipes on my family this summer. I’d say I’ll miss it, but I plan on taking advantage of Kevin’s kitchen in his room this school year. Don’t ask why I never took a real picture (snapchat only) of anything I cooked…I swear it happened!

Although it wasn’t hot very often this summer, I managed to get a fair amount of time in the sun. Laying out and enjoying the rays made this summer great. In my case, the darkness of my tan directly correlates to the level of satisfaction I have with my summer.

I had a great time riding my new bike through the woods on an almost nonexistent trail. It was a great workout and a little bit too outdoorsy for me, but I really did enjoy it. My bike rides through the city won’t be anything like that.

Back in June, we went to Arlington Race Track for what was my first time. It was so much fun experiencing the horse races and betting on them. I didn’t win very often, but I’m still very proud about my $8 win!

I had a really fun and short summer. I hope this last year at UIC is just as great!

The best thing in life

I wanted to read 20 books before it was time to go back to school. I didn’t think that was a particularly ridiculous or unattainable goal, but I definitely didn’t make it. Including the current book I am reading, I’ve (nearly) finished 10 books since I came home from school.

That’s still a lot of reading, but I really wanted to read more. It gets hard to keep with a book during the school year since I feel like I’m constantly on the move. It’s senior year, though-my final year to get things right, and I am insistent on making time to read. I don’t want to lose my favorite hobby to being busy.

If you’re looking for a book (or 10!) to read, I actually recommend all of the books I’ve read this summer; it just depends what genre you are interested in. Here’s the list…I hope you take the time to read something off of it- or, I hope this inspires you to read more.

1. The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger

I’ve started and stopped reading this book in the past because of not having the time to finish, so this was first on my list to tackle. It was published over 10 years ago, and you’d have no idea, minus the slightly dated pop culture references. Otherwise, the story still holds its own in 2014. Most likely considered to be in the genre of ‘chick lit’ (among some of my other reads this summer), this story pulls out all the stops. You will definitely laugh out loud, potentially cry, and feel a lot of hatred for a boss you don’t even know (but feel like you do). No matter who you are, you can probably relate to the main character, Andrea; she is just starting out as a recent college graduate trying to get a job and establish herself (she was also an English major!) and is going through some hard times balancing the demands of an entry-level job and friends/family/etc. The movie-with Anne Hathaway as the main character-leaves out a lot of really good parts of the book, so don’t think you know the whole story if you watch it.

2. Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, Lauren Weisberger

I have a really hard time reading a book and not checking out its sequel if there is one. I have to know if there’s more, whether or not it’s worth knowing. When this book started out, I wasn’t thrilled, but once I got deeper into it, I was really happy I followed up with it. This book just came out in 2013, and the main character has done a lot of growing up in the time between novels. I know that both of these books received mixed reviews, but I do think they are enjoyable; however, I don’t recommend reading them if you’re in the mood for a really fast-paced thriller. These are not going to satisfy that need. But otherwise, if you’d like a nice book to get into, check these two out.

3. The Intern’s Handbook, Shane Kuhn

After coming off of my previous two books, this book was fantastic. I found it in two-week rental section of my library-generally where brand new books are. I didn’t even need two weeks; this book was so good that I couldn’t put it down and was done in just a few days. Published in April, this thriller is all about an “intern” on his final assignment. These interns are really assassins and spend their days taking down corrupt executives. This book combined my love of internships with my love for a good thriller and really strung me along the entire journey. It’s one of those with a fantastic ending and surprises throughout. If you’ve ever been an intern, or if you haven’t and would like a look into the complete opposite world of an intern, this book is for you. This was easily one of my favorite reads this summer.

4. Love Story, Erich Segal

My mom recommended this book to me one day at the library. Since I read ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ last year, she picked this book up and handed it to me, saying it was her generation’s version of John Green’s storyline. Of course, I was immediately interested, checking it out and finishing it within the same day. Just recently, the book showed up on a list of the top summer reads of the last however many decades, so it was really popular in its prime. It might make you cry, it and it could certainly be categorized as chick lit, but it was good, simplistic, and old. (Apparently made into a movie…no word on its quality)

5. Oliver’s Story, Erich Segal

Once again, I saw the sequel to a book on the shelf right next to it, so I had to grab it. This one wasn’t as easy to get into as ‘Love Story’, and when I told my mom that, she reminded me that she only recommended the first book to me. Eventually, the story engrossed me, but I was still sad from the first book and it was affecting my enjoyment of this book. I don’t think that would happen to everyone, though. I do recommend the first book more, especially (obviously) if you’re only going to read one of these two. But, if you want the story to continue after you’ve finished ‘Love Story’, definitely pick this up. (Also apparently made into a movie?)

6. Devil in the White City, Erik Larson

I feel like there is a lot of hype around this book, which was a big part of the reason I had to read it for myself. I’m really into historical fiction (this book is not) and thriller/stories about murderer (sick of me, I know, but this book is about that). At any rate, a true story about the World’s Fair and a murderer preying off Chicago tourists was really interesting to me, and I think this story would captivate anyone. I first learned about H.H. Holmes on the Ghost Tour back in October, so reading this book really brought me full circle. A long read, but worth it. I recommend this if you like learning about Chicago, too.

7. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

This book is and has been pretty popular right now. I even noticed my library was having repeated book discussions about the book…yet I had to use the interlibrary loan system to check out the book (from another library…) Anyways, this book was phenomenal. I was constantly wondering what would happen next, and at one point, everything I thought I knew about the book and its characters was thrown out the window. I love that. It might even be safe to say this is one of my new favorite books. This book is for anyone-absolutely anyone. There’s no way you couldn’t like it or be caught up in it. Guess I could inform you a little bit-on the day of a couple’s 5 year wedding anniversary, the wife goes missing and everyone is looking at the husband as the culprit. He, too, is in search of her while trying to keep his name clear. I’m so excited for the movie! A statement you’ll almost NEVER hear from an English major………………………….

8. All We Know of Heaven, Jacquelyn Mitchard

Ok, this book was downright sad. If you need to cry, which I guess I must’ve felt the need to do when I was picking out this book, then you, too, should grab a copy. When two best friends are in a horrible car accident, the family and friends of the small town are left to mourn the death of one girl and pray for the brutally injured other girl. Only, it turns out to be a case of mistaken identity……… This is a really great book and isn’t too long, either. Don’t read it if sad stories aren’t for you, though! You’ve been warned.

9. One Day, David Nicholls

Apparently this became a movie, too? Why don’t I know these things? Anyway, this book (as the cover states) is about 20 years, 2 people, and 1 day. Basically, two people met one day just before college graduation and only become slightly romantically involved. They meet again year after year, but their lives are changing and they seldom keep in touch. The end of the book will completely shock you, and the duration of the story will make you question the main characters again and again. This is probably considered a romantic novel.

10. My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult

I realize I’m about 500 years late to this game. I realize this one is a movie-I’m not entirely clueless, and I’m not finished with the book, either…don’t tell me the ending! I always thought the storyline of this book was sick, but something made me want to finally read it. I am actually very interested in it and am truly enjoying it. A great thing about this book is each chapter is coming from the point of view of a different character; this is a great way to get to know everyone in the text, and you can decide to like a character all on your own. So far, I really recommend this, but like I said, I’m not done, so my opinions on this one could really change depending on what Picoult does to me in the next 100 pages. We’ll see…I’m a little nervous.

So there you have it. There’s the 10 books that got me back into the swing of things these past few months. I really hope you find the time to put down your electronic device and open a real, paper book and enjoy yourself. Now that’s living.

Don’t forget the rest day

♪♫♪ Now I’m laughing at my boredom, at my string of failed attempts / because you think it’s important, and I welcome the sentiment…

Despite classes and work going on, it actually hasn’t been too hard to carve out some time every day for a good workout – and I really need to if I want to keep up with this marathon training. But even now after several weeks, I’m still behind the designated schedule when it comes to the long runs (this is week 5 of 16…and my long run is supposed to reach 14 miles. I think I should be able to hit just about 11…yikes.) But it’s true that I haven’t been strictly following the schedule either, and I’ve been treating it more like a guideline to training rather than a strict regimen. I just have the feeling that if I followed it to a tee, I’d probably get bored really quickly or worse, push myself too much and get hurt. So I’ve been changing up the workouts here and there to match my own pace, mostly depending on how much time I have that day and how tired I am from getting through the day. I’m nervous because it’s kind of risky taking my chances by “modifying” my weekly mileage since I’ve never done a marathon before. I really hope it works out down the road in October!

Even though this summer has been reasonably hectic,  I’m really not nearly as busy as I usually am during the school year when I’m juggling many more classes, working as a Peer Mentor, and keeping up with all the extracurricular activities going on. So even though it’s been an 8 AM to 5 PM daily schedule, I feel like it’s still a much lighter load. I don’t have to bring my research lab work home with me, and I only have two classes to worry about, so I actually find myself not as stressed and actually sleeping at decent hours! When I head to the gym either before classes or after work, I’m running at least 50 minutes a day on the track inside the student rec center.

That is something that makes me nervous though–running on the track instead of outside on real pavement. I am worried that by the time the marathon comes around, I won’t be properly acclimated to running outside, which in my opinion is about a thousand times harder than running in a flat, temperature-controlled track room. I know that I should be practicing my long runs outside, but I actually really dislike running outside in the city. At home, in the suburbs, there aren’t many cars in the subdivision. But here in Chicago, it kind of feels like I’m always running into stoplights and cars and have to stop or jog in place until I can get going again. I also don’t like feeling myself breathe in all of the smog and car exhaust around me…I’m not sure if it’s a myth or not, but I’ve been told before that it can actually be more damaging to your lungs to go running in the city than it is to just not workout outside at all. I don’t know if that’s an exaggeration, but the thought has always stuck in my mind, and now whenever I run outside in Chicago I always wonder if my lungs are actually suffering from all the smoke I’m inhaling. So whether it’s for peace of mind or the sake of not becoming a traffic accident, I almost always run indoors. I know that’s probably going to come back and bite me on race day, but I guess I’ll try to deal with it then like I usually do.

Just a fun picture of what my roommate Chevelle and I do with our time off :)

One big thing that I tend to forget is the all-important, necessary rest day. When I do have more time than usual on my hands like I do this summer, I pretty much want to squeeze in a workout every day no matter what, weekends included. I get addicted to the workout high and it feels wrong to skip even a single day. But, as I’ve learned the sad, hard way before, rest days do not equal cheat days at all — they’re recovery days. And my body needs them, whether my brain wants them or not. I like to lie to myself and tell myself that I can take it, that it can’t hurt to push myself a little more–and sometimes this is very effective. I hit new best times and personal records with this kind of mindset. But after running for about two years now, I’m wiser enough to know now that it’s not always a sustainable kind of thinking. Some time ago, when I was a beginner runner, I once pushed myself way too hard by not taking any rest days at all throughout the whole week. Then one day during a casual run, when I hadn’t even hit 5 miles yet, I felt something in my knee kind of go pop and I felt a terrible strain when I tried to continue. A cold sweat ran through me and I immediately stopped, terrified that I had finally risked too much and injured myself by not properly caring for myself.

But I was extremely lucky. I slowly stretched out my knee, feeling awful soreness and no agonizing pain. I considered a good warning from my body, and I ended my running that day and did some yoga to just relax, feeling like I dodged a bullet. I learned my lesson from then and would always factor in a rest day sometime in the week from then on. It would be a nightmare to injure myself seriously or even slightly because of the huge setback to my fitness and health, regardless of whatever training I’m doing. I’ve been a lot more careful to stretch since then and to make sure I alternate between hard runs and easy runs–and of course, incorporate at least one rest day a week.

So with all that, here’s kind of a sample of a week of marathon-training-running for me right now…

  • Monday: 4 miles run
  • Tuesday: 7 miles race pace
  • Wednesday: 4 miles run
  • Thursday: Rest Day
  • Friday: Long Run – ideally 10+ miles
  • Saturday: 5 miles run / Cross training (usually swimming)
  • Sunday: 3 miles run

Andddd essentially repeat the above but slowly adding to the mileage each week. I’m following the 16-week marathon training plan loosely, and hopefully it’s not a case of me thinking I know better though. When October comes around, I’m determined to be physically and mentally prepared to make it through that 26.2!

So we will drink beer all day / and our guards will give way / and we’ll be good ♪♫♪ 

(Be Good - Waxahatchee)

Residence hall requirements

In just over a week, I’ll be moving back into the residence halls for my final year. For most people living on campus, move-in isn’t until much later on in August, but I’m headed back for one last round of resident assistant training.

After living at school for 3 years, I’d like to think I have a pretty good grasp on what I need to bring, what I can survive without while I’m away at school, and what I absolutely can’t do without. Here’s my list of essentials that I recommend everyone bring when living on campus. Don’t go without them-trust me.

(In no particular order):

Fridge: I can’t imagine ever not having a fridge while away at school. You’ve got to have somewhere to put leftovers from one of the many awesome restaurants downtown! Even if I was just keeping water bottles cold, my fridge has always been pretty much vital to my survival at school.

Bandaids/first aid supplies: I’m not joking about this. At least having bandaids and Neosporin on hand is really important, because you’ll always find a way to get hurt at school. Plus, around here, there isn’t a nurse or parent to go to for immediate help. Step 1 in becoming a grown-up.

Outfit for job or internship interviews: Some people back a small amount of clothes for school. Others haul nearly their entire wardrobe (guilty as charged.) Either way, don’t forget to bring some type of professional outfit for potential jobs or interviews. Don’t miss out on an opportunity because you didn’t have anything to wear; always be prepared for these types of things. Since you’ll be at school, not to mention in the middle of a huge city, there will be a lot of opportunities waiting for you to take advantage of. Don’t let your wardrobe be your boss.

Movies: Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of whatever you can find on t.v.-especially if you don’t have Netflix like me. Bring along some movies that you can watch in case you feel like laying around one night and relaxing or if you’d like to watch with some friends.

Shower shoes: I don’t care who you are, where you live, whatever the case-bring shower shoes. You don’t want to contract anything from other people’s feet germs and you’ll actually feel clean if you come out of the shower in your shoes. Just do it…there are plenty of inexpensive flip flops out there.

A book to read: Textbooks are always really dense and it can be hard to find a way to relax or feel a bit of home. For me, reading a book for leisure while at school makes me feel like I’m at home, since that’s something I’ve always done. It’s great to have something take your mind off of schoolwork and stress.

Chocolate/candy: Not too much, and not to the point that you are getting cavities or giving them to your floormates. It’s nice to have a little stash or backup for those times where you’ve had a rough day or just need a pick me up. It’s also a great thing to share with other people on your floor-instant friends!

Ear plugs: If you don’t have these, you can pick up a pair from the Wellness Center. Living with other young people is unpredictable and can become very lousy. Make sure you have a pair of earplugs on hand so that you are able to get your sleep when you need it.

Brita: It isn’t good for you (or the environment) to only drink water bottles all the time. It also isn’t good to only drink when you’re down at the cafeteria. This is why I think Britas or other water filters that can be kept in a fridge are your best bet. This will help you make sure you’ve getting enough water and have it available at all times.

Travel mug and water bottle: Whether it’s with this water you’re drinking or a cup of coffee, make sure you are staying hydrated all day. Bring some type of travel cup/mug so that you can bring a drink wherever you go, whenever you need to.

Cold medicine: Just like papercuts or scrapes, colds happen. And trust me- it can be really hard to be away from your family and feeling helpless. Bringing whatever cold medicine you are comfortable with is a good idea to stave off some of those awful cold symptoms. You’ll be feeling back to 100% in no time.

Lap desk: I know there are a lot of people who prefer to study or do homework outside of their room, but for those who aren’t bothered, I recommend purchasing a lap desk that can sit on a person’s lap and allow them to do whatever they’d like while sitting wherever they like. I’ve used my lap desk for homework, for eating a meal, and for RA door decorations before, and each time I use it, it proves even more invaluable.

Command strips: Can’t be punching holes in the residence hall rooms. Make sure you have brought many different forms of the command strip so that you can hang anything or fix anything that has fallen. They won’t damage the wall when you take them down, either.

Bathrobe: I think robes are the best thing ever. For me, getting out of the shower and into my robe is a great way to relax. Plus, in terms of living on campus housing, a robe is an extra privacy step around others. These are also perfect for when you’re sick, tired, etc.

Isopropyl alcohol: This goes hand in hand with the command strips, because the directions call for you to wipe down the wall or surface before applying the command hook. This also doubles as part of a first aid “kit” to prevent infections and stop bleeding.

Cleaning supplies: It isn’t always going to look clean in your room or bathroom, especially once it was lived in. Make sure to clean up fairly frequently to prevent germs and infections spreading. This just prepares you for the real world in which you have to clean whatever space you’re living in.

 Extension cords: Although there are a lot of outlets around the rooms, I strongly urge bringing a cord or two. This way, you can plug in anything you want around a location in the map. Don’t go without at least one.

Good luck packing up with the end of summer almost here. I hope you remember to bring some of these essentials, because I can guarantee that you will be needing them at some point. Good luck!

The honeymoon is over.

 ♪♫♪ Burn it down till the embers smoke on the ground / And start new when your heart is an empty room…

There’s this one scene in Lilo & Stitch (yes, the lovable Disney cartoon movie that came out in 2002…I feel old) where Lilo, a lonely little girl, is trying to teach the incorrigible, destructive blue alien Stitch how to be a “model citizen” by emulating Elvis Presley. The duo follows around Lilo’s older sister Nani, who’s going to interviews all day to try to secure a new job for herself. Predictably, whenever Nani seems to have a stroke of luck, Lilo and Stitch somehow manage to stir up mischief and ruin her chances – whether it’s by causing a large disruption in a hotel lobby, knocking over all the produce in the market, or scaring away all the people on the beach. It’s a part in the movie where you sympathize with Stitch, who despite being an alien that was created for evil and destruction (it’s a kid’s movie, don’t hate), still inherently wants to try to be good and find a family and acceptance for himself. But even when he tries his best, he ends up misbehaving, being destructive, and causing a ruckus around him – and then he’s left to deal with the disappointment from others and a good amount of self-loathing.

I feel you, Stitch, because that’s kind of where I’ve been for the past week. Not that I’m a blue alien from outer space causing mass mayhem, but there have been some bad days recently that I’m just trying to get over and out of my mind. There have been a few days where I woke up, went to class and work, and then came home feeling like I couldn’t stop screwing up the whole day. It seems like when things get rough, it all happens at once. The TA gives me a public scolding in lab, I carelessly screw up making serial dilutions at work, almost get an accident during my bike commute, talk back to my mom because I’m in a bad mood…I kind of feel like Stitch in that scene, trying so hard everywhere I go, but still messing it up. Then when I try to take my mind off myself by surfing Facebook or opening up some Snapchats on my phone, I see my classmates doing spectacular things in London/Copenhagen/Tokyo/NYC, making big accomplishments in their jobs and internships, enjoying happy times with family and old friends…I’m so happy for them but also can’t help but be jealous at the same time – and then, even worse, just utterly disappointed in myself. The other day, a familiar thought came to my mind while I was biking to west campus for work: the honeymoon is over.

And by that, I just mean that the exciting adjustment period where everything is new, fascinating, exciting, and full of promise has once again dulled and rusted, and some of it feels like my own fault. I often feel like this is a reoccurring phase for me, because whenever I enter a new environment or circumstances that are different, I just get really excited. I do. I definitely felt that way when this summer started and I got all settled in my beautiful apartment room at Thomas Beckham Hall and locked in my schedule for classes and work everyday. I was full of anticipation and enthusiasm for my first week and felt fully ready to make the summer special in Chicago. But now? Over halfway in, I’m not quite as eager when I stumble out of bed in the morning…

It takes me back to when I first stepped foot in Commons West as a freshmen two whole years ago (wow, time flies…), which was probably the prime example of a “honeymoon” period that eventually crumbled too. When I first came to UIC as a bright-eyed freshman, I wanted to take on the whole world, stand out and be a leader, fall in love, get all the grades I wanted all the time, make my parents happy and always be proud of me…I wrote all of this down in my journal then, because someone once told me that if you write down all your wishes, there’s a better chance of them coming true. During my first GPPA Medicine class, when Dr. Chambers warned us about the temptations of complacency, I mentally took note but, without meaning to, I also deemed it irrelevant to me. After all, I thought in the back of my mind, surely my motivation is impenetrable and tireless, never to be daunted by any looming challenges to come. During my first meeting with my Honors College adviser and my future Fellow Dr. Cohen, I naively brushed off their concerns about adjusting to college, telling them, “I’ve never been happier in my life.”

But of course, as the year progressed, I settled in – the residence halls became a little smaller; the other freshmen, comfortable with a closed friend circle, were less eager to meet me and know me; the classes were no longer filled with bright new things to learn but mundane repetition and a constant source of stress and worry fluttering constantly in my mind. The city is no smaller and Chicago still holds my heart, but I became more conscious of my limitations. As I crossed off items of my Chicago/UIC bucket list, I gradually stopped adding to it too – not intentionally, but maybe just some of the first spark was lost. I spent lonely times wandering the city, getting lost in more ways than one. I did poorly on exams and felt ashamed of the grades. I got my heart broken. And everything that once seemed so sensational faded into reality.

So this listless feeling of pessimism and sadness isn’t new to me. I’ve been here before. I’ll indubitably be here again. I go back and read my blog posts from the start of summer and I just want to go back to that time, and maybe prevent some of the major mistakes I made. I know it’s impossible, but it’s still hard for me not to dwell on the failures I’ve had and not wish I could do something to change them.

And then…some things that are really bringing me down recently are even definitively out of my power. One of the only things that is worse than self-disappointment for me is when people I really care about are sad, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I end up realizing that I had actually been relying on their happiness, selfishly just counting on them to be always there for me and using that as an invisible source of constant support. And now they’re at their worst, and there’s nothing I can do to make it better, fix it, make it whole again…and I feel like there’s a hole in my chest because I’m helpless to help them.

And so I do all I can do for them – I tell them that I love them, so so much, and nothing in the world can change that. I pray that this might be enough for now. I continue my routines at classes and work, trying to stay focused when my head feels too cluttered to think straight. I distract myself by running miles and miles and miles on end, thinking those endless circles on the track might take me someplace else. But no amount of footsteps can take me away from reality and the truth that no matter how fast I can run, life is always faster. And I crash to the realization that all I can do is hope that these terrible feelings eating me inside all pass soon, and that they take all the strife away for a little while too.

I’m not naive enough to just put my faith in false positive platitudes anymore, but I still do hold on to this: just like all of the honeymoon periods come and go, so do the times like right now. I have a lot to be grateful for right now that I can’t forget about. And there are spectacular times to come. I just need to rely on myself to have patience for them. In the meantime though…thank goodness for writing, running, and music, because they still remain the steadfast sources of catharsis and escape when nothing else is.

‘Cause all you see is where else you could be when you’re at home / Out on the street are so many possibilities to not be alone ♪♫♪

What a marvelous view ★

♪♫♪ The whole place was dressed to the nines, and we were dancing, dancing / Like we’re made of starlight, starlight…

Every July, when all of the people in America are getting pumped up to celebrate the anniversary of our country’s independence, my family prepares to celebrate something else too–my mom’s birthday! Since my mom’s birthday is on July 3rd, we typically tend to celebrate it along with the 4th of July. I didn’t have work or class on Friday, Independence Day, so I was able to come home early on Thursday night right in time for my mom’s birthday.

My family’s birthday celebrations may always be a little bit different as years go by, but they still do have one thing in common: there must be cake. And no one loves cake more than me! Whenever someone’s birthday comes around, someone always goes to either Costco or Jewel to buy a huge, delectable birthday cake that feeds way more than just four people, and because of this, it usually stays in our fridge for a while for all of us to indulge in (although usually I whittle it away the fastest haha!) until it’s gone. And since my brother, mom, and dad have birthdays in June, July, and August respectively, there’s basically a regular supply of cake in our fridge all summer long…no qualms here! ☺

So when my dad picked me up on Thursday, we stopped by Costco on the way home to pick up a huge bouquet of flowers and an enormous cheesecake to bring home to surprise my mom–not that she was surprised really. It’s become so common for us to do this for Mother’s Day, anniversaries, and birthdays. I even managed to convince the baker at Costco to write a nice birthday message on it. After living on my own, preparing my own meals, and working hard at school and work for a few weeks, it felt so good just to relax and be with my family at home. I also got to play with Charlie again too, and between the two of us, I don’t know who was happier to see the other!

Other than cake, my family doesn’t usually make big plans for birthdays other than a birthday dinner. But this summer, both my brother and I were home for July 4th weekend (which is sadly becoming increasingly rare as we both get older and get more summer jobs, schooling, and other obligations to attend to), so we were determined to make it special. After bothering my mom for a bit about what she would like for her birthday, she mentioned that despite living so close to Chicago for over 20 years now, we had never been on a boat tour on the Chicago River. It’s something that she had mentioned before, actually, and it had always seemed incredulous to us that we have been here so long without ever really touring Chicago. And so, my brother and I immediately pulled up Architecture Tours on the Chicago River on our laptops and within the hour, we had booked four seats on a morning tour for the very next day! I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was, since we got tickets for 4th of July. The tour boarded at Navy Pier, so early the next day we left in order to avoid as much traffic as possible and hopefully snag a parking space. We arrived around 11 AM and nearly all of the parking garage space were already gone, but we got lucky and managed to find a spot. Before long, we claimed our tickets and boarded our boat for our 11:45 tour.

Happy birthday to my beautiful mom!

The boat tour was 75 minutes long, and it was definitely well worth the cost of under $40 per person. I hadn’t been on a boat in quite a long time, so it was really fun to be on the water! Our tour guide was entertaining and informative, telling us all about the different building and their architectural history as well as background information about Chicago. He had little humorous quips that kept everyone entertained and pointed out little landmarks that might not have been as well known, such as the closed down post office that had once been the largest in the world. He even pointed out the building of the traffic court in the city — “I’m quite familiar with the inside of that one,” he joked. I knew most of the information from reading or from school, such as the Chicago Fire or stats about the Sears (“Spelled W-I-L-L-I-S, pronounced Sears,” the guide explained to out-of-town tourists.) Tower, but it was interesting to hear it all again anyway, particularly about the influence of Spanish and French architecture that is still seen on our skyline, and then the change to Daniel Burnham’s style, modern, and postmodern architecture. My parents were surprised to learn that pretty much the entirety of Chicago was originally built on a swamp. Cruising down the Chicago River, it was wonderful to be able to experience the skyscrapers of Chicago from the water and just relax and enjoy it with my family.  I think the weather was absolutely perfect for once – not too hot, not too cold, and just enough wind to feel cool outside without being chilled. The water shined under the sunlight and my mom, who absolutely loves taking pictures, had lovely photo ops all throughout the cruise and after.

The view from the boat.

“Enjoy it,” the guide said. “Because Chicago really has only two seasons: 1) Winter. And 2) Construction season.”

By that, he explained that pretty much the moment the cold winter weather lets up, numerous buildings begin construction all around the city. The skyline and the buildings are constantly changing because of the intense competition and demand for bigger and better designs, and it’s no wonder that Chicago is such a forefront of architecture in the world. Even though Chicago – particularly the Central Business District – was decimated by the famous Chicago Fire in 1871, reconstruction began immediately, and within 2 years many new building were already erected. By 1893, Chicago hosted the World Fair, with the Chicago Columbian Exposition being designed by Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted. It was incredible to hear about the tenacity of the architects and how this spirit still continues today. Every day, architects and engineers every where are still competing to build the biggest, tallest, and most impressive building. As someone who has never really understood architecture outside just a historical or landscape context, I found it interesting to hear the buildings described in more of the builder’s perspective for once.

My mom took this sweet picture of my dad and me walking without us knowing!

After the tour ended, my family spent a glorious few hours under the sun wandering about Navy Pier and enjoying the beautiful scenery. We had lunch and listened to a live band play as the crowds gathered quickly throughout the day to enjoy the Independence Day festivities. Even though I know Navy Pier is kind of underwhelming or boring to native Chicagoans, I had a great time because we were all together. To avoid traffic, we headed back in the early afternoon and made it home to Naperville in good time. Not long after we got home, the news on the TV even said that Navy Pier had even closed its entrance because it was at capacity! It’s amazing to me just how many people gather just to watch fireworks there, and to be honest, I wonder if it’s worth the crowds, the crazy traffic, and the madness of being there. But now that I think about it, if you’re with friends, I guess that kind of craziness would be worth the memories and the good time. Maybe one day I might actually try to spend a 4th of July night there just to see what it’s like. But I’m already with my family, and as for my mom, dad, brother, and me, we just drove to a gas station not even 5 minutes away from our house and watched the Naperville fireworks in a far distance. They were tinier in the horizon and probably less flashy, but also just as bright as they lit up across the night sky. We sat in the cool grass (forgot our blanket and lawn chairs, oops) and swatted mosquitos while counting the number of sparks flying around us. I don’t know how I might be celebrating 4th of July years from now, but I can’t imagine a more perfect day than the one I had with my family this year, making memories with my loved ones that I’ll keep forever.

Don’t you see the starlight, starlight? / Don’t you dream impossible things? 

(Starlight - Taylor Swift)

A Waiting Game

Everything I learned about patience, I learned from waiting for my hair to grow.

It’s pretty obvious that patience is one of the most important things to have, and without it, life can certainly be difficult. At first, I’d say I’ve learned to be patient because in life, there is a lot of waiting, but I don’t think that’s true. That’s probably helped me out, but only to an extent.

But my hair grows so slowly…so incredibly slowly. Slower than anything has ever grown in the history of ever. Once, the person cutting my hair told me that hair grows about a half inch a month. I wish that were the case for me. But it definitely isn’t.

In December, I decided to cut my hair. So I did. But I didn’t just cut it – I cut it all off. I got my hair cut so short that I couldn’t put it up in any type of pony tail or bun. I had to leave it down. Which meant I had to “do” my hair every day until it grew out. I really liked my haircut for a while, but eventually, the fact that I had no way of getting it out of my face (ever) started to drive me insane.

I had to get up much earlier than I ever had to before just to make sure my hair wasn’t absolutely crazy or frizzy or offensive. If, on the slight off chance I exercised, I had no way of tying my hair back from my face and neck. Yes, I’ve heard of bobby pins and hair clips, but believe you me, with hair as large and in charge as mine, you’re really limited on your options; it can be so hard to say whose the boss of whom.

It’s July. Seven months since I cut my hair. In the past month, my hair has finally gotten to a length where I am able to sort of pull it back into a pony tail or bun, but pieces still fall out and make my hair look crazy. I have no idea how it’s taken this long for any type of change to happen. But the progress is there. When I can pull my hair out of my face, I see just how real the progress is, even if it has taken 7 months to notice any chance whatsoever.

I didn’t come here to tell you about my hair and my stupid or maybe not stupid hair cut (it depends on the day and how I feel about what I did.) My point is, if you want to learn true patience, chop your hair off.  Because a big part of the choice is the fact that eventually it will come back, but for the time being, it is gone. And the only way to get it back is to wait. And eventually, you’ll be faced with the decision once again of whether or not you should cut your hair and to what length and what style and whatever else you wonder about. That’s why I don’t usually have any qualms about cutting my hair a certain way. If I just wait, things will be right back to where I started. And after the hair cut, it’s fun to try something new and different for a while.

And as my hair grows, I wait. I wait for the three books I requested from the library to come in through the inter-library loan system. I wait to see if I will be able to find a job immediately after college. And I wait to see if it will rain or be sunny tomorrow because I no longer trust the forecast. I’m ok with that. I’m ok with all of those things, because eventually, I will find things out. And soon enough, my hair will grow, and it’ll be at such a length that I’ll probably want to chop it all off again. And that just might be my personal circle of life.

Stay tuned for insight into what I’ve learned from the crazy cowlicks all over my head (totally kidding…)

What am I doing?

I haven’t updated you on anything that I’ve been doing for some time. Since it’s summer, things are at a much slower pace for me, or at least, I’m doing completely different things than I am when I’m at school. Either way, summer is still managing to fly by, and in just about a month, I’ll be loading up the car to head back to school (for the final time!)

Even though I normally spend around 3 days a week at work/my internship, that’s where the bulk of my summer seems to be spent. I’m not complaining at all, though — I love every minute of it. This is my second summer interning at the nearby hospital in the Public Affairs & Marketing Office, and it’s safe to say I’m hooked. While there, I’ve been helping generate media coverage for various topics/patient stories, writing press releases and coming up with my own ideas for them, assisting in any way possible, and, probably my favorite part-writing articles for the online news article website for Advocate. It’s such a great feeling to see my name on articles I’ve written and knowing that people are reading them. If you’re interested, you can check out the two articles I’ve written so far here. I’m hoping to write many more within this next month.

Another exciting part of my internship was the night spent in the emergency department. The media was interested in doing a feature on the trauma team at the hospital, so a couple of weeks ago, we stayed overnight in the ER to let them get some footage and interviews. This was never something I expected to do, but it was really cool. I’ll be back in another weekend for a different television channel to stay overnight. Pretty crazy!

When I’m not at work, I have pretty much been reading whatever current book I am on. So far I have read about 7 books, which is pretty good for me since I sometimes have a hard time making time to read. On work nights, I fall right asleep before reading more than a page or two, so everything has to happen on the weekend. I want to read a lot more books before it’s time to head back to school, because that’s when I really can’t find the time to read. Nothing’s really on the reading list at the moment, and that’s kind of nice because I can read anything that way. I’m currently reading “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn…not far enough in the book to have any sort of opinion; we’ll see what happens.

I’ve been brainstorming some ideas for the upcoming school year. I want to be the best Senior Resident Assistant I can possibly be, and I know that means coming in with a plan or some concrete things. I haven’t formalized anything because that would mean summer is almost over, and I don’t want that to be the case. So, I am compiling a list and shelving those ideas for a few weeks down the line.

I have also taken a fair amount of time to search for future internships for the next two semesters. I can’t tell if I should complete two more internships or not; it’s really hard to say. I have been checking my options out and starting the application process for a few. I know I need to have an internship Spring 2015 because I plan on taking a for-credit internship class, but as far as landing an internship for fall, nothing is planned just yet. We’ll see what happens after interviews and applications. Starting to think I’m internship obsessed.

There are still some things I need to take care of before school starts. I need to complete the mandatory RA/PM online homework that every student staff member must complete over the summer. Every time I go to start it, I decide that it isn’t the best time, even though no time will be better than any other…need to get on that. I also need to (for once) look at and possibly order my textbooks ahead of time so that there is less stress when I am assigned homework during syllabus week and have yet to pick up the book for the class. I also really need to do more summer activities because I feel like I haven’t gotten much done. Definitely need to get a beach trip and a game of golf and/or mini-golf in before its too late…ahhhhhhhhhh!

I know everything sounds much less busy and chaotic than the school year, but I still feel pretty tired and sometimes even stressed. I’m trying to really enjoy this since it’s my last summer before being a true adult-graduated and ready to join the working world. Let’s enjoy what remains of summer…

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