On Animals, Lovingly

About a year ago, I came across a list of reminders for pet owners. The one thing from that list that has never left my mind is the reminder that while you may have a lot of things/people/events/places in your life, you are the world to your pet. You are all that they have – they rely on you for food, for love, for entertainment, for adventure, for comfort.

black cats, carlos, chicago, paws chiago, cat,

He kills me. I never thought I’d love something so much. Every time I see him, my heart expands to accommodate all the love I have for him.

He’s just discovered bath water. He’s always been curious about baths, but his curiosity finally bested his fear, and lately, he’s been hopping up onto the side of the tub, where he’ll sit and then tentatively dip his paws in the water and swirl them around. Sometimes, he’ll hover with his nose just above the water, whiskers barely skimming the surface.  It’s the cutest thing, even though I’m frozen by the fear that he’ll fall in and I’ll suffer the wrath of a wet cat.

One thing I’ve always loved about Carlos is how demanding he is when it comes to affection. When I go away, even for a night, he’ll let me know that he’s upset with me by rubbing up against my legs and then ignoring me. He’s very aggressive about the silent treatment, and his faces are priceless. He’ll rub up against my legs, then walk a few feet away, and then, sitting with his back to me, he’ll look back over his shoulder and give me the big sad yellows, as if to say, “You? Oh, I hadn’t noticed you were there” and after a while, it becomes “WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME!?” but in cat-speak, complete with frantic meows and very clingy cat-cuddling.

(His snaggle tooth is the cutest thing.)

I’ve noticed that when I come back, Carlos gets very possessive. He’s jealous of any visitors who come over. When I get home from work, if I lay in my bed, he’ll hop up and hop onto my stomach and lay down, curling into a position that renders me immobile but assures that we’ll have some time to snuggle. I watch his little body, his stomach rising and falling as he breathes, I listen to his adorable feline sighs.

They’re far more complex than we give them credit for. They hold onto grudges – as evidenced by his distrust of my brother – and they are capable of giving unconditional love in ways that we could all learn from. The idea that to them, we are the world is humbling and terrifying – we are so responsible for them and their happiness. How can we ever live up to that?

We are their world. Don’t we owe it to them to love them madly and completely? I have grown accustomed to sharing about 60% of my bed with 13 pounds of cat. He manages to situate himself in such a position that he has the best parts of the blankets, or that you can’t lay completely straight. My usual waking position is one leg straight, then one leg bent with foot resting above the opposite knee (hey, sleep yoga!), and cat in the space where my legs should have been. Or he sleeps on my stomach, or snuggled into my arms.

As much as he aggravates me with his demands for wet food and sleep positions (how dare I try to be comfortable until he’s situated?), I wouldn’t trade any of this. We’re coming up on three years now. Three years of accidental cat ownership. I can’t fathom not having him around. Chicago street cat turned spoiled Colorado house cat. Who’d have guessed?

I read this article in the New York Times about a woman who runs a sort of cat sanctuary – she knows their names, she knows what they like, she knows what they need. The last part identifies a few of the cats, and talks about one cat who was found snuggling his owner after the owner died, and how the owner was a musician, and how the cat comes to sit by the radio every time he hears music. It just breaks my heart to think about how many people neglect and abuse their pets, given their capacity for love and the strength of the bonds that we create with them.

Of course, I recommend adopting a shelter animal. I get that they may not be the newest, or the best looking, but at the end of the day, they’re the ones who are the most deserving of love and good homes.

This year, I’m going to make sure that Carlos knows how much I love him. I’m going to make more time to play with him – I’m going to make sure we have a steady supply of catnip-infused things to hunt and “kill.” I’m going to try to keep him entertained by letting him do more jumping and perching (while also discouraging property destruction caused by his careless disregard for fragile things). I’m going to snuggle him and make sure that he’s never lacking for attention.

And in return, I expect him to finally wear his special occasion neon green bow tie long enough for me to get a decent picture.

On Voting, Enthusiastically

Four years ago, I was in Chicago when then-Senator Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States of America. I cried tears of joy then, and I will most likely cry tonight (whether or not the tears will be tears of joy remains to be seen).

Social media is abuzz with messages, but mostly, I’m seeing status updates urging people to vote. I love this. I’m 24, smack dab in the middle of the demographic that people worry won’t vote. Honestly, I don’t understand. I was thrilled to register to vote, and even  more thrilled to vote. I’m still thrilled. I got chills today just thinking about how wonderful it was to cast my ballot last week.

I encourage everyone to do the same. Get chills. Go vote. Be an active part of something that’s bigger than you are. Only then are you entitled to complain about the government for the next four years.

On Fall, College, and Debates, Randomly

I’m totally embracing fall today. I’m wearing my lumberjack plaid shirt (which got complimented at the grocery store by two really burly-looking dudes, so that made me feel pretty badass), I drank a pumpkin spice latte (work perks), and I’m relishing the leaves that are suddenly everywhere (Colorado got really windy last night, so now there are leaves on lawns, leaves in the streets, leaves on the sidewalks, and so on). I even changed my Gmail theme so that the background is a wonderful vision of red, yellow, and green leaves.

Yay, fall! It’s still sunny and bright, so I’m not even thinking about the ice scraping hell that is yet to come. Right now, I love the weather. I love the leaves. I am craving a pumpkin carving session. I want to make spiced cider and wear striped socks.  It’s still warm, so I’m still looking forward to wearing my coat – although somehow between last week and now, I’ve managed to mislay my brand new black pea coat. Hrm…..looks like the hunt is on.

Where does one leave a pea coat? It’s not in my car (although my gray one is, along with the black one that I am dissatisfied with. I keep it in there to wear when I go to bars so in case someone steals it, they’re actually doing me a favor instead of ruining my evening). It might be in my house (this is a constant problem since 80% of my clothing is black – I can never find anything when I need it). It might be at my mom’s house. It is. It’s hanging in her kitchen closet because I didn’t get it after dinner last week. Boom! Thank you, logic and desperate recollection.

***

I fall asleep while watching tv on my computer, usually. It’s my way to calm down after the day, but also my way to keep abreast of current pop culture stuff. I usually choose The Daily Show or The Colbert Report because they’re 21 minutes (ish), they’re light-hearted, and I don’t have to follow anything other than the sound of their voices as I drift off. Also, Carlos seems to enjoy them, too. He curls up with me and lays his head so he can see the screen. I have no idea if he’s watching or if he’s just comfortable that way, but I won’t complain.

But the other night, I chose one of the new episodes of Modern Family. I’ve written about the show before, mostly because if it’s a good episode, I will have cried at least once by the end. (Not cried like melted down and sobbed, but teared up and/or felt at least one tear drip down my cheek.) The show is silly, but I do think that they have some really poignant moments. And that’s what I’m all about – the humor blended with the absolute certainty of reality of life.

So….the oldest daughter is going to college. The move-in process was really not one of the show’s finer moments, but the scene where the parents have gone really got to me. The daughter is shown wandering around the cafeteria, alone, as the parents drive home. She calls her parents later, when she’s back in her room. And the parents are holding back tears and so is the daughter. Of course, my heart just cracked and spilled over and tears ran down my face – enough to annoy the cat.

I’ve written about my college drop off a hundred times. It was horrible. My uncle and cousin were kind enough to accompany my mom and brother to Chicago. We got my stuff moved in. And the first night, they were still in the city. Over breakfast before they left – at a place that did not have sides of fruit available for purchase – I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

I’ll repeat, just for emphasis, it was horrible. I’m not even embarrassed. My uncle does a really funny impression of me begging, “I’ll go to DU, I swear! Take me with you!” (Funny now, not so funny then.) And then I cried for the next three days. The first night, my roommate came back into our room and declared – oddly gleefully – that there was a bulimic on our floor because she’d heard some girl throwing up. (That girl was me. Not a bulimic. It was tear-induced vomiting.) After those first few days, I was more or less fine and proceeded to fall in love with Chicago. But watching the tv parents drive away in their van, and the girl alone in her room brought it all back, just for a minute. That’s how you make good television.

I also laughed out loud at the gay/lesbian Venn diagrams they made with their arms. I laughed hard enough to annoy the cat, who apparently doesn’t find gay/lesbian human Venn diagrams amusing at all.

Last night, I fell asleep while watching Breaking Bad. Then the boy/man/romantic interest – ugh, we’ll just call him by his actual name because I am sick of writing “he” – Then Matt called, and my sleeping self told him that it was very windy and then went back to sleep. (Sleep Katie is very productive – she answers the phone, she responds to emails and texts, and she talks. Last week it was about towels and cat food – obviously very pertinent and totally normal things.)

***

The debate last night. I don’t care what side you support, or who you think won, but I’ve been very much enjoying all of the internet uproar about the whole thing.

Like this, which made me laugh out loud:

Binders full of women My roommate got pregnant our freshman year of college, and now has an adorable five-year old daughter. She’s single, a teacher, a mother, and a beautiful human being. She was indignant about Romney’s answer to the AK-47 question (as was I), and rightly so. It reminded me of my junior year of high school when our Morality teacher told us that single parent households were against God’s plan…I told him that I was being raised in a single parent household (at that point, I was living with just my mom, and it was by choice). His response? “Would you want your kids raised that way?” Personally, I think I turned out just fine. And I don’t own any weapons, assault or otherwise.

Also, the best facebook status of the night, posted by one of my brother’s friends: “Apparently, guns don’t kill people, single parents do.”

On Education, Gratefully

My word for 2012 has been “gratitude.” I have tried to be more mindful of the wonderful blessings in my life and express gratitude in all areas of my life. First things first: I have improved dramatically at writing and remembering to send Thank-You notes. I think that may be the only real deliverable; the rest of my gratitude practice has been solely in my own mind and heart.

As I’ve been crawling, inching, barely progressing on the series Breaking Bad, I’ve been reflecting on my own life, my own decision-making rationale, my gifts and support systems. Of course, the onslaught of gratitude and related emotions has been a refreshing reminder of how beautifully hopeful and heartbreaking life can be.

But the greatest gift I’ve ever been given was my education. From the age of three, I was enrolled in private, Catholic schools. While I realize that Catholic schools are a hot-mess of crazy (this is true), I also realize how valuable the emphasis on education is. I remember begging my parents – pleading my case every single year – to let me go to public schools. They didn’t.

I went to a Christian Brothers high school, but my real luck came from the Jesuit university I attended. The Jesuits are noted for their commitment to the education of the whole person. If there’s one thing I took away from my college experience, it was “solidarity.” While Loyola may not be known for their commitment to the betterment of Rogers Park (I think it’s a no-win situation, as far as land ownership goes, but on the plus side, the Loyola stop is in pretty good condition. and there used to be a Dunkin Donuts!), they’ve always emphasized service-learning and commitment to communities of all kinds, more than just their own student body.

My professors there were not all devout Christians, but they were all devout scholars and educators (give or take a few). One of my favorite professors was a women’s studies professor who taught some of my feminist theory classes. She was a devout Catholic, but freely admitted that as a woman, she had problems with some of the catechism. I so adored her commitment to her faith but her willingness to question it and call attention to its hypocrisies and flaws. It allowed me to see the Catholic faith in a new light, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

While attending Loyola, I lived in one of the most racially diverse neighborhoods in the city of Chicago, which is already a wonderful blend of everywhere. But that’s not the point, even though I will carry pieces of Rogers Park in my heart forever. The point is that my educational experiences have left me a more rounded, grounded, rational human being. I’ve traveled to Europe for a forensic trip because I was lucky enough to have the most badass forensic teacher (we had one of the only forensic science classes in the country at the time) ever. Loyola prepared me to open my heart and mind to the conditions in the townships in South Africa.

All of this education has left me curious, well-informed (mostly), and most importantly, someone who cares about the well-being of all human beings (solidarity, solidarity, solidarity, and so on).

Regardless of your religious views (trust me, I have plenty of opinions and don’t ever get me started about the current Pope), this article should give you hope for the future and hope that educations such as mine will continue to cultivate a love of learning in young minds everywhere:

By Carl Bunderson

Denver, Colo., Oct 16, 2012 / 03:03 am (CNA).- Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School based in Denver, Colo., has nearly doubled its enrollment in just one year by introducing a classical curriculum.

“This is something people want, and they’ve wanted it for a long time, and now it’s available,” principal Rosemary Anderson told CNA Oct. 10.

Our Lady of Lourdes is a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school. The parish’s pastor, Monsignor Peter Quang Nguyen, had helped turn around a number of schools in the Archdiocese of Denver which had been in danger of closing. He was assigned to Lourdes five years ago.

When Msgr. Quang hired Anderson to be principal in 2010, the school was in “quite a bit of debt” and had only 104 students enrolled. That figure is 180 today.

The school’s capacity is 235 and Anderson believes that by the next school year, “we’ll have to start wait-listing kids.”

“The biggest problem when I came on was that everyone thought the school was going under. The attitude has changed…Now people know this place will be there, and their kids are getting a phenomenal education, and parents don’t have to worry that it will close in a few years.”

“I’m very grateful for Monsignor Quang’s support. None of this would have happened if he wasn’t completely on board,” she added. “We were right in this together.”

Anderson noted that classical education is meant to help students learn how to think, rather than merely teaching them “subjects.” The program at Lourdes school was inspired by 20th century author Dorothy Sayers’ essay “The Lost Tools of Learning,” and the work of Laura Berquist, who was involved in the founding of Thomas Aquinas College – a Catholic university in southern Calif. which uses the classical model.

“She’s a huge influence,” Anderson said, “she founded a homeschooling curriculum called ‘Mother of Divine Grace’ and is brilliant in the ways of classical education.”

The foundation of classical education is a set of three methods of learning subjects, called the trivium, which is made up of grammar, logic, and rhetoric.

Lourdes school will focus on the grammar and logic phases, and will introduce the eighth graders to rhetoric.

The trivium “happens pretty naturally” using the classical curriculum, and ideas of grammar and logic and integrated into the subjects taught to students: “it flows naturally from the way teachers are teaching,” Anderson expressed.

This year saw the hiring of five new teachers, in a faculty of 15 total. And out of those five, four have either had a classical education or taught in a classical school,  Anderson reported. “I brought in people who know what the vision is…they’re confident in how to teach” classically.

Anderson noted that the school drew in numerous students who had previously been schooled at home. Several homeschooling parents enrolled their children as this type of education wasn’t available before. “Now they know there’s something that will sync up with what they’ve taught” their children.

Several non-Catholic families have also come to Lourdes just for the classical education, Anderson said. She expects that group to grow as well, “because it’s a great education.”

Parents at the school are very invested in the classical model, which she “welcomes completely.” She pointed to the Catholic teaching that parents are the primary educators of their children, and that “we’re just here to help them.”

Anderson was encouraged to differentiate her school, and with the “support and knowledge”of Bishop James D. Conley – former apostolic administrator of the archdiocese – chose to follow this approach to education as a way of imparting to students the art of learning.

“The classical approach is Catholic, through and through,” said Anderson. While “other schools are doing great things,” “no other Catholic schools in the diocese are doing this yet.”

The school’s re-organization will be a three-year process. The first year, which is occurring presently, involves a re-vamp of the English department and the introduction of Latin classes.

Latin was introduced in place of Spanish because of its importance as the basis of all Romance languages. Students “logically process things better when they know Latin,” said Anderson. She pointed to high school freshmen who “test into honors French, without having had any French before, just by knowing the root language.”

Latin is important for the grammar stage of the trivium because its nouns decline, or change their ending according to function they are performing in a sentence. This helps students to better understand how languages work, and it is coupled with the memorization of poetry.

The second year of the school’s rehabilitation will consist of a renewal of science and social studies.

“We’re not necessarily changing the material we’re teaching, but how it’s given to the kids, which is a step away from dependency on textbooks,” said Anderson.

Students will be reading more primary sources for history, and in English classes, reading historical novels to tie-in with their history classes.

“All the classes are very intertwined. What they’re reading in English should correspond to what they’re learning in history, and in history should be able to carry over to the virtues they’re learning about in religion, so it’s all very integrated.”

Morgan McGinn is in her second year at the school, and teaches second grade. She discussed how the move to classical education has changed her teaching style.

“I have to read and discover knowledge on my own before I can share it with my kids…It’s definitely changed my teaching; I can’t just look at a book anymore and read the lesson, and be prepared for the next day.”

“I’ve had to almost flip everything I know about education upside-down to teach classically,” she said.

Her students are now “required to think more,” rather than having “the information they need to know fed to them.”

The holistic approach of classical education, meant to build up the whole person, translates to an emphasis on the fine arts. “We already had a great performing arts and speech department here…so that was already very integrated,” said Anderson.

The school’s music and performing arts teacher, Patricia Seeber, is a veteran of the school, having taught there for 13 years.

“The feel where we’re at spiritually with the kids, that we’re making that the most important part of the day, has shifted for the better,” she said.

“It just feels like they’re really responding to it in a great way.”

In keeping with the introduction of Latin into the curriculum, Seeber has added Latin hymns among the songs prayed at the school’s bi-weekly Masses.

“We raised the bar I think a step or two higher than a lot of schools do, and the kids really rise to the occasion.”

Lourdes’ classical education is meant to help the students realize their full potential “spiritually, intellectually and socially,” and help draw them to God through the true, the good, and the beautiful.

The parish’s maintenance director, Bryan Heier, reflected on Anderson’s leadership at the school, saying “with enrollment as high as it is so quickly, she’s doing something right.”

On Change, Seasonally

I feel fall coming. I’ve been smelling it on the morning air since early August, but now I’m really feeling it. The morning air is crisp, a reminder of the cold bite that I’ll be complaining about in a few months. For now, it’s refreshing. I roll down the windows and feel the warm sunshine and the cool air and I am content. I drive, watching the rolling ribbons of brown leaves part to let me through, and I know that the time for warm summer nights and sunshine will soon be a thing of past and something to look forward to.

I think of the changes of this summer – the adventures, the love, the friends, work – and I can’t believe it’s gone so fast. Did I take advantage of it as I used to? No. I used to relish summer, staying up all through the night and watching dawn break over the sleeping city. Now I count late hours as borrowed from the next day, and wake to rejoin the rush. Swim attire has been replaced by business casual, the need for adventure replaced by a longing for a comfortable couch.

Growing up is a strange process since it doesn’t happen all at once. It’s the small changes that happen season by season, so subtly that you don’t notice them until you look back to see where you’ve come. Not that I’m grown up, by any means, or that relishing late nights is an activity left only to the young. Just that there are little bits of my maturity that seem to be slowly falling into place. Or perhaps I’m just spreading myself too thin and the lack of time stretching in front of me to be filled with adventure is shrinking as a result of obligations that I never imagined I’d have rather than the reality of adulthood.

I know that it is my responsibility to make sure that I maintain the work-life-me balance. And in that precarious juggling act is time. I need to carve out time for me to do nothing. Perhaps I need to be more strict about that, reminding myself that the busy everything can wait. But the busy everything is so pressing, so nagging, and at times, so incredibly fun. The busy everything doesn’t wait.

I long for hours – I wish I could waste them again, the way we used to. We’d lay around the apartment, we’d take walks, we’d adventure. What’s an afternoon drive to Wisconsin when you’ve got nothing else to do? Now, I have to schedule laundry strictly in order to ensure it will get done.

I wish for evenings. For weekends. For unplanned, unscheduled, unmarked time. And when I have it, I will do nothing. I will not do the things I’ve been meaning to. I will not clean, or cross things off my to-do list. I will draw a bubble bath and grab a novel and sit for hours, until the water is cold and my toes resemble shrunken heads. I will watch endless episodes of everything on Netflix. I will become bored. I will relish that boredom by painting my toes and face-masking. I will spend a long afternoon napping with Carlos curled around my feet. Ah, that would be lovely.

On New Opportunities, Sadly, Fondly, Excitedly

This post is a love letter to one of my best friends, who’s off to intern abroad for the next six months. I hope she has an absolute blast perfecting her Italian while eating gelato and canolis and kicking ass at what she’s doing.

I’ve known her since I was fourteen. We got close during geometry class our sophomore year – we were absolute hellions to our teacher – and then traveled to Europe together on an amazing forensic science trip between our junior and senior years of high school.

We went to Chicago together our senior year. She was visiting her boyfriend, and I was falling in love with the lake. We ended up going to the same university. Even though we’ve had very different life experiences, we’ve been able to maintain and strengthen our friendship through the years.

Honestly, some of my best memories from college are from my senior year. The Irish, the Ginger Summer (parts one and two), bar trivia, adventuring, accidentally driving to Wisconsin, the Boston trip, the last night and the sunrise that wasn’t – those are the moments that shape the beautiful memories of my time in Chicago.

I have come to rely on Madeline for advice, for adventure, for a good laugh. Sometimes when I’m really stressed out, she’ll appear in my dreams and yell at me, so I’m pretty certain that she’s my super ego. She is the logical half of our duo, the rational one who always has the right answer. I respect and value her opinions at all times, and have looked to her as a source of strength when I need it most.

I’m so lucky to have a friend like her.

There was a flaming bowl of rum punch involved. That may explain why the picture is so off kilter.

San Francisco, summer 2010, singing “Wonderboy” at a karaoke bar. Are we awesome at karaoke? Absolutely not. Did we rock? Of course.Wonderboy, what is the secret of your power?

The Chicago Mustache Bash:

Spray painting the Irish’s van. Sally, as the van was called, had no working speedometer or gas gauge. The Irish had gotten her for $400 and paid a guy in beer to fix her when she broke.

The first night we went out with our new Irish trivia buddies, they picked us up in the van. I was certain we were going to die when they opened the sliding door while we were on Lake Shore Drive and yelled “air conditioning!”

(The Irish got stopped trying to get back into the US from Canada because they had spray painted “We’re here illegally” on the side of the van.)

South Boston, 2010. A trivia adventure.

Downtown Chicago, 2009. Maddie’s family was in town. Things got wild. This is my favorite picture of us. 

On Marriage, Trepidatiously

The man I once thought I was going to marry got married last weekend. By all accounts, it was a beautiful wedding. (This is one of those thank-goodness-for-facebook moments. Some of my friends are still friends with him, so I got to see pictures. Pssh. You wouldn’t be a little curious?)

When we met in 2007, it was instantaneous. The beginning of summer crept over Chicago and I fell in love. When I saw him before I moved back to Chicago, the feelings came flooding back.

When I moved back to Chicago, I was naive enough to think that it’d be easy for us to be together. It wasn’t.

There was a big fight, the fallout, and then the gradual rebuilding of what would be one of the greatest loves of my life.

I was patient (not a state of mind I’m entirely used to). I played it cool (again, not something I’m familiar with). I was awesome (of course).

Our tentative embrace of the potential relationship resumed. I knew it was officially unofficial when, after a party at their new place, I fell asleep in his bed. Just as I was drifting off, I overheard someone asking about me, and clear as day, I heard his response, “Katie? She’s my main squeeze.” I fell asleep smiling.

The next summer, he drove with me out to Colorado. I remember driving into Rocky Mountain National Park with him, thinking that I wished I could bottle the happiness that I felt. It was the swell that you fill in your core when you’re so full of beautiful emotions. It was everything I knew would never last.

Rocky Mountain National Park

(ahh! and there’s Simon on the right. That’s one love that will never die.)

As the summer faded to a close, things began to crack. There was the gradual frustration that I felt with everything. There was the future. We began to talk about the future, and I stopped seeing us and started seeing my parents (hint: not a good thing). We fought. We broke up. The anguish was drawn-out, peppered with those moments of hope that all would be salvaged. It ended badly.

I am thrilled for them as they begin their lives together as husband and wife. But I am so relieved. I don’t even feel bad saying that: I am so relieved. About a lot, but mostly the fact that I am not married.

I want to be married someday very badly, but I am very much willing to wait until it’s a thousand percent right. (Even if that means I end up 45, single, and find myself “accidentally” adopting cats from shelters and taking them home to keep me company while I drink Malbec and wait for my pineapple curry to be delivered from the Thai place.)

But damn, this world can be a very lonely place. Even when you’re not alone. But even so, the thought of getting married as a means of ensuring companionship is terrifying.

In the very immortal words of Outkast, “Forever never seems that long until you’re grown.”

On Chicago, hurriedly.

more about this adventure later, but here’s the Chicago part:

I flew from Denver to Chicago after work on Friday. He picked me up at the airport (with champagne!). Saturday: we saw his grandparents and then he had a going-away party at his house. Sunday: we had brunch with his family; then I had a nap while he packed the car; then we had going away dinner at his mom’s house. (It was really cute because both of his parents came. It was sort of like when both of my parents came to my college graduation party. You’re shocked, because you haven’t seen them in the same room in years, but you’re also really proud of them. And happy.)

And then we left. It was midnight and the moon ahead of us, wrapped in clouds, led the way home.

Midway Airport by Night

Swisher picked me up with a bottle of champagne, a sandwich, and some cookies. We sat in the back seat as his brother drove us back to Lincoln Park.

It was the best airport pick-up a girl could have hoped for.

Hancock Building, Chicago

The city.

Katie and Matt at Fado's

We went out downtown Friday night. Swisher’s brother wanted to meet up with some of his friends, so we ended up navigating through the crowd at a hip bar downtown. Ugh, I hate feeling like I’m wearing too much pants. Also, I dread summer because I’m so pale. Mini-dresses look good on me, but not as good as the tan women.

Overwhelmed by the crush of bros that was the hip bar, we ended up at Fado’s, one of my favorite Irish bars. The night was perfect. Absolutely, one hundred percent perfect.

Belmont Harbor, Chicago

We visited his grandparents on Saturday. The view from their apartment over Belmont Harbor enchants me. I could watch the lake all day. His grandma remembered that I liked watermelon and strawberries, so she had some waiting for us when we got there.

Thai food

On Sunday night, Swisher’s brother made a Thai feast (sans peanuts so Swisher wouldn’t die). It was delicious. Beyond delicious. There were fried fish balls, curry, mango sticky rice, noodle dishes, lettuce wraps. We played a few rounds of Catchphrase before we left, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite games.

And then we left. There were tears and hugs and a general overwhelming feeling of love. It was good.

On baseball, begrudingly

View from the Rockpile, Coors Field

I had never sat in the Rockpile before.

So now I can say I’ve done that.

So bummed, my favorite sandals broke last night. Looks like it’s time to invest in some new shoes. Yesterday at work we were having a Birkenstock vs. Keens discussion. They all like the Keens better, but I prefer the Birkenstock look. (My old sandals were from Target. And I’m super upset that they didn’t do a new version of the style this year. Because the same thing happened to the first pair of favorite sandals that I had – same exact style, but older. The thing between the toes goes. And then you don’t have sandals anymore. Just sadness.)

This baseball game was infinitely better than the last one we went to.

Waking up this morning with a mild hangover, I’ve decided that I hate adulthood. I need my 8 hours of sleep now. I need my alone time. I can’t stay up all night, or do shots of whiskey, or dance until dawn (at least not on weekdays). Sometimes I try, and I’m always swiftly reminded why those activities quickly become best left to the young. And by young, I mean people who don’t have to be at work before 9am.

On Simon, on the occasion of 80,000

I drove the long way home yesterday, and to my immense satisfaction, pulled up to my apartment building just as he had hit 80,000 miles.

(I have no idea why it looks like it’s raining in my car.)

At six years old, he’s all grown up. I’ve had him for nearly 50,000 wonderful miles. We go everywhere together, and I imagine that I will keep him until he dies, or until I have kids, or something else gets in my way.

And of course, on this most excellent occasion, Simon found himself in the shop, having an oil change and some transmission issues. A few months ago (six months? nine? I think it was summer but who knows), I was driving down Colorado Blvd when my car freaked out. Now, I’m not one who has any experience in dealing with car problems, so my car jerking and shuddering and jumping all over the place while the D light was blinking was positively terrifying.

I called the Honda dealership. Of course, I should have anticipated their response: “That normally doesn’t happen in a Civic. We normally see that in Odysseys and Pilots.” Alas, they informed that it was a pressure switch in my transmission and that I need to bring my car in. “Can I drive on it for a bit?” I asked. They told me that I could, but I’d probably get terrible gas mileage.

Here we are so many months later. The D light stopped blinking and the never did the shuddering jumping jerking business again, so I never brought it in. But it’s been worrying the back of my brain, as transmission issues do. The gas mileage has remained pretty steady, so no complaints here.

I took the car into my mechanic, who’s basically the best mechanic ever. He calls me to tell me that he doesn’t really feel any loss of power when he drives. I cut in about the D light. “The D light was blinking!? No one told me about that! I’ll call you back!” The phone went dead. He called me back about a half an hour later to tell me that yes, it is a transmission pressure switch error code but it’s also another error code.

But then he tells me not to worry, because it’s not bad enough to deal with. (I love this guy. He’ll let you know what’s urgent and what’s not.) I still need to be super vigilant about my transmission, because at the first sign of trouble, I’m going to need to replace something about the solenoids and the pressure switch, or worse, the whole damn thing.

I’ve got his blessing to keep driving on it and he’s going to give me the name of his transmission people. So, Simon and I shall keep adventuring until it’s time to do some serious surgery. At that point, if it’s the $400 repair, I won’t hesitate, but if it’s the entire transmission, we’ll have to do some serious thinking about whether or not it’s worth it. But for now, I’m still just as excited about him as I was the day that I got him.

I bought Simon when I was 20. It was February 4, 2008 (yeah, I guess that’s weird, but it’s a date I’ll never forget). When I turned the car on for the first time, the odometer read 33,111. I knew right then that I had to have him. (That, and the fact that I spent as much time as I could in my Grandma Mary’s car when I was a kid because she had a digital speedometer. I thought her car was the best ever. And yet, somehow, I’d managed to get a digital speedometer of my own! Luckiest girl ever, I swear.)

Simon at night, with bubbles. Illinois. 2009?

Simon, at dusk. Illinois, Halloween, 2010.

(side note: Old Dave may have been right about the sex appeal [or lack thereof] of Birkenstocks.)

In the four years that I’ve had him, he’s been crushed, crunched, cracked, and spray painted. He’s hit bugs, curbs, rocks, potholes. He’s driven and driven and driven. And I have loved every single minute of it.

Simon in Wisconsin, barely. Winter/Spring 2010.

Simon reflecting in Rocky Mountain National Park, June 2009.

Oh and the best part?

80,000 miles divided by 6 years is 13,333.33 miles per year, on average. It’s just one of those things that was meant to be.