Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Deep in the Heart

Today, my best friend Shannon moved to Texas. 

Double rainbows with Shannon outside of the Bakery.

Unsurprisingly, this gives me feelings of both nostalgia and pride. I'm so happy for her and excited for the new chapter she is about to begin, but I'm just going to miss her so much. Shannon and I met when we were in 8th grade, which feels like it has been both eons and mere days ago. Although we had a similar circle of friends, we did not really become close until the summer of 2002, our freshman year of band camp. We bonded over a mutual love of Fairly Oddparents and the love/hate relationship we both had with marching band. 

Throughout high school, we were inseparable. We would spend Friday nights at football games, weekends seeing cheap movies at the Ready, afternoons driving around listening to Keith Urban and Panic! at the Disco. We'd sit on the beach with our friends Gyllie and Stephanie, watching the waves roll in and squinting to see the lights of Chicago along the horizon. Those years were filled with train rides to Chicago, slumber parties in my parents' basement, sneaking out to cemeteries in hopes of finding a ghost, or at least an antidote for the ever-present small town boredom. 

As years passed and physical distance grew, we kept in touch. But the ebb and flow of adulthood commenced, phone calls and visits would sometimes be sporadic, but still the friendship remained. Shannon stood next to me on my wedding day, kept me classy at my bachelorette party, and shared one too many bottles of champagne with me on my porch. She has seen me through frizzy hair and embarrassing moments, awkward crushes and finding soul mates. Always, she has been just a drive away. Close enough to have a semi-spontaneous weekend drink, but far enough away to always carry a small ache of missing my best friend. 

Today, the physical distance between us will get a little further. Visits will now require plane tickets and a bit more coordination. Weekend drinks may have to be shared over Skype. Phone calls will be more frequent than crashing on each other's couches. But if 12 years of friendship has taught me anything, it's that she will always be there. 

Best of luck on your new adventure, Shannon. I love you and I'm so very proud and honored to call you my friend. Take Texas by storm, but always know that you have a home here in the Mitten. XOXO

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Born Down in a Dead Man's Town

Today is Bruce Springsteen's 65th birthday, so it only seems appropriate to reflect (again) on what his music means to me and how it has influenced my life. As far a musical tastes go, mine are not particularly hip or eclectic. I enjoy classic rock, a bit of folk, and some show tunes for good measure. I know what I like and I like it entirely un-ironically. Inasmuch, I abuse the ability to hit repeat and will happily listen to the same song on loop for hours. 

Not only is the Boss my favorite musician of all time, he is also my go-to listen for nearly every situation, nearly every feeling. His repertoire is a musical medicine cabinet of sorts; healer of all that ails you. I've written before about how nearly every major milestone in my twenties has been marked by a Springsteen song or album. To this day, I am immediately taken back to memories of summers of newly-discovered independence, my college graduation, or my wedding day with the opening riffs of the Greetings from Asbury Park and Born to Run albums. I often rank seeing the Boss play Wrigley Field as the best day of my life. However, while I will always love and appreciate Bruce for the big moments, it's his music filling the quiet between the milestones that I will always treasure. 

After my leap into unemployment (and uncertainty) last year, I turned to the Born in the U.S.A album for comfort. Although it had never been one of my favorites, over the course of those insecure few months it filled me with feelings of rejuvenation and optimism. Born in the U.S.A tells a story of getting knocked down and picking yourself back up again, because that's the only option. In many ways, it's also a love story. But its pervasive story is that of a hopeful new beginning. When I felt like I had "nowhere to run, nowhere to go," once again the music of the Boss carried me home. 

It's that promise of hope that brings me back to his music again and again. When I need a song that's guaranteed to put a smile on my face, I turn to "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)". When I'm feeling lost, I turn to "Hungry Heart." When I'm hurting, I turn to "City of Ruins." In a musical homage to The Band's "The Weight" (my extreme love for that song deserves a post of its own), "City of Ruins" weaves a story of loss with the ever-hopeful chorus giving a glimpse of the beauty that will rise from the ashes. "Come on, rise up..."

In these moments of joy and happiness, pain and sorrow, I find myself automatically reaching for this music. By way of his words, his music, and his voice, the Boss has been there in every moment to celebrate and to mourn, to encourage or to just give a reason to turn up the radio and sing along. There's rarely an occasion that a little Bruce won't make better.

And so on this day, along with my birthday wishes, I want to also say thank you to the Boss. For writing what has become the soundtrack of my twenties. For being an enduring symbol of the strength of the underdog. For being a constant reminder that hope is everywhere, and for teaching us where to look. 

She found out how to cope
She rides to heaven on a gyroscope
The Daily News asked her for the dope
She said, "Man, the dope's that there's still hope.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Current Favorites


1) Parks and Rec. 

Per the suggestions of a few friends, I started watching this on Netflix. Although I'd seen a bit of the first season in the past, I admit that I wasn't terribly impressed. I'm not a huge fan of single-camera, mockumentary-style sitcoms. However, now that I'm further into the series, I'm hooked. (But only on Season 3, so no spoilers!) The writing is hilarious, the characters are delightful, and I just can't get enough of Leslie Knope. I love her ambitious attitude and passion for her community. I could use a bit of the Knope spirit in my life. 

2) Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. 
This book series has literally been on my "To Read" list since high school, but for some reason I never got around to it. Over the summer, my friend Joe raved about it which gave me the final push I needed to dive in. I'm currently in the middle of the third book, absolutely loving it, and forcing myself to read slowly so that I can savor them. This series is a perfect blend of science fiction and satire, and Thursday Next is the perfect literary heroine. It's unlike anything I've ever read. 

3) "People Help the People," covered Birdy.
Although this album is a few years old, I've just recently started listening to it consistently. This song has been on repeat recently. I'm not sure what it is about it, but I can't get enough. Her covers of "Skinny Love" and "Fire and Rain" are also worth a listen. 

4) This awesome infographic about library usage. 
Despite what some might think, libraries are alive and well! Millennials continue to utilize libraries and are even out-reading older generations. My favorite statistic? In the U.S., there are more public libraries than there are McDonald's. Long live the libraries! 

5) The John Muir Trail. 
I love me a good documentary. I really love me a good documentary about mountains. So, when I saw Mile, Mile and a Half on Netflix, I knew that I would be in for a treat. This is a documentary about a group of artists who thru-hiked the John Muir Trail in California and documented their journey. Lately, I've been obsessed with the idea of long-distance hiking, thanks to books like Wild (PCT)A Walk in the Woods (AT), and Almost Somewhere (JMT). It's not something I have any experience with, but has this Midwesterner longing for mountains to climb. Perhaps one day...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I'm Still Here, Redux


Although the calendar still indicates a few more precious days of summer, here in the Mitten all signs point toward fall. The skies today were gray, the air cool, and the sidewalks soaked with rain. While I generally prefer a bit more of a transition into this time of year, I am welcoming it with open arms (and umbrellas).

This summer flew by in a blink and was heavy with classes, a play, and the weddings of lovely friends. I didn't spend as much time up north, at Lake Michigan, or eating frozen yogurt as I would have liked, but it was a beautiful summer nonetheless. I made a lot of lattes, wrote a lot about libraries and reference services, and thought a lot about what I'd like life after grad school to look like. (Preferably a view of mountains from behind a reference desk.)

After a ridiculously busy month of July which included finishing classes for the semester, starring in a play, and spending a week in the Canadian wilderness, I had the entire month of August off of school. Although I relished in the lack of homework, I also experienced a lack of purpose. Despite the intensity and often overwhelming workload, I really love my program. I missed school. (A sentence I never thought I'd utter.) If nothing else, I've learned over these past nine months that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Libraries and literacy are my passion, and my heart swells at the thought of spending the rest of my life sharing that passion with others. 

With the transition to fall comes orchestra rehearsals, ArtPrize, Shakespeare Festival, Rocky Horror, birthdays, anniversaries. In just over a month, Kyle and I will celebrate 7 years together, as well as turning another year older. This past year has brought many changes and challenges, gray hairs and tears, and memories that make my heart feel full.

So, I continuously remind myself that I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this very moment. I repeat my grad school mantra: Don't panic. Kick ass. I draw strength from the supportive people who surround me. But more than anything, I hold on to hope. Because sometimes, that's all there is. 

As always, thank you for reading friends. Thank you for having my back. And thank you for not just giving me hope for today, but hope for tomorrow as well.