Sunday, June 30, 2013

Parades and Gays an 5K's! And Fashion and Lots of Caffeine.

The title of this post got a little out of hand.  It does a pretty great job of summing up what I'm going to say though, so if you're strapped for time... you pretty much get the gist of my week.

But who's strapped for time these days?

Actually, that would sort of be me.  But I'm not complaining because my busy schedule is completely and entirely self-inflicted.  It'd be like if I chose to become a vegetarian then complained that I wanted a hot dog.  If I want a hot dog, no one's stopping me from eating  hot dog.  Just like no one is making me study for the LSAT's or do long runs on muddy trails through lighting storms.

muddy shins... delicious!
But that's what I've been doing.  My days have been going something like this: wake up, go to work, work until I want to smash my head on the keyboard, smash my head on the keyboard, work more, come home, run, shower and eat, do practice LSAT questions until my brain is mashed potatoes... then read and drink tea until I fall asleep (usually 15 minutes later).  Caffeine consumption is up.

And then, of course, I like to spice it up and sprinkle in a bit of mob-like crowds and championship parades here and there:

The Hawks won the Stanley Cup, which is kind of a big deal or something.  I won't even pretend I'm close to a Hawks (or hockey in general) fan.  Honestly, those people on that championship bus could have been the two McDonald's cashiers down the street wearing Hawks jerseys and I wouldn't have known the difference.  Being in that crazy atmosphere did kind of get me pumped up, though.  And seeing the Stanley Cup itself was pretty cool.  (If you look really closely at the guy on the back of the bus, you can see ol' Stan himself).

And as you may have guessed from the title of this post, this week was also jazzed up by a bit of gays and 5K's (but not together, as far as I know).

I wanted to gauge where I was at with my running before I get too far into my marathon training, so I signed up for the2tough2bully 5K.  The race was only $17 to enter and it was pretty small (somewhere around 200 participants), so it wasn't chip timed (i.e. those little things racers put on their shoes).

I did well (I came in second and clocked in around 17:40, although I'm pretty sure it was a little less than a 5K).  It was also my first time around Grant Park and the Shedd Aquarium, which is beautiful, so pictures would have been nice.  Unfortunately, however, they didn't offer a bag check.  I took the bus down to the race, so my options were either to leave my phone at home, carry it while I raced, or hide it so no one would steal it while I ran.  I chose option one.

I did, though, take a few pictures of the trip the day before pick up my race packet (and also get a new pair of very badly needed shoes).  You know how Augustus Gloop goes absolutely nuts when he visits Willie Wonka's factory?  That's me when I walk into a running store.

And as for gays?  Well, this city never stops surprising me.  This weekend my neighborhood celebrated the apparently well-known event called "Pride."  In case you're like me and have no idea what that is, it's basically just a big parade to support being gay.  My neighborhood had been preparing for it for weeks with rainbows beginning to pop up where rainbows normally aren't found.

I guess I should have taken that as a hint that this would be a huge extravaganza.  But I didn't.  I actually had no idea that Pride carries about the same weight as the Fourth of July around here until, after realizing my bus home from the race had been rerouted due to the parade, I had to take the L home.  There I was just trying to enjoy my banana when I'm suddenly squashed up against the window by 52 drunk rainbow fairies in tutus and their gay bro's (yeah, I thought that was an oxymoron until now too).

And that was nothing compared to what awaited me (literally at the end of my street) when I got home

Drunk Hawks' fans is one thing but this, especially when you're sweaty, smelly, tired, and just trying to cross the street... well, I was not extremely amused.

To be clear, I'm all for equality.  But I'm not sure how I feel about this one.  However, I'm going to save discussing controversial subjects for things that I actually have strong feelings about (Joe Flacco vs. Tom Brady or the advantages of not folding socks, for example).

Moving on.

Back to more important things: this blog.  I've been sort of on the fence with this blog for the past few weeks.  It was definitely a great way to keep my family and friends updated as I moved across the country on my own.  There were so many new and exciting things going on, blogging just seemed like the most logical way of letting everyone know what I was up to, and more importantly, that I wasn't dead.

Now as I've settled into daily life, though, it seems like this blog has turned in to more of me telling you about my daily (and usually ordinary) activities.  While I'm sure that's fascinating, everyone has their own daily activities so my trip to Walmart hardly becomes something worth reading.  Plus, it sometimes creeps me out knowing that anyone could potentially know where I do my grocery shopping (just to get all Snowden on ya).

I thought about stopping the bloggery, but I do actually enjoy it.  So this week, when my friend Julie from work commented that she liked my outfit and that I should start a fashion blog, my brain gears started spitting  flames.  I told my mom about the idea (yeah, I'm a grown up) and she also hopped right on board.  Actually, she sort of took over the train.

I love my mom and her enthusiasm.  At first, I wasn't sure that anyone besides the people biologically obligated to care what I think would, you know, care what I think.  But I figured that if someone like Julie, who is probably one of the most legit people I know (she has her own Wikipedia page, people), seemed to care... then surely someone without their own encyclopedia entry would read it.

So I started this week taking a picture of my outfits.  I figure that if I start actually doing this, my spin would be "fashion on a budget" (because I am, after all, the girl who lives in an apartment furnished entirely with Craig's list and dumpster-dive pieces).

Literally nothing I wore this week cost more than $30 and almost all of it was from Target or H&M.  Although I am not sure if this is something I can really find enough material to blog about (despite my mom's obvious beliefs to the contrary), I think it might be fun.

Plus, if I run out of ways to look professional in poverty, I do live in a city where I have quite literally seen a man in a cowboy hat and spandex running in moonshoes, a woman in a snowsuit straight out of "A Christmas Story", and a man riding a bicycle in a gorilla suit, all on one run.  "Man on the street" may take on an entirely new meaning.

I'll leave this topic up to discussion in case anyone is really opposed to this new direction for my blog.  Seeing as I have had a total of two people comment on this blog in the past, though, I will take no comments as enthusiastic support for my decision.

Hope you all have a good week.  Stay classy!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Hello Sunday, we meet again

Again, this week wasn't too exciting.  It didn't include any festivals or bars or cross country flights (much to Kelsey's dismay, as she has spent the last week attempting to use her unfortunate struggle with poison ivy to bully me into buying an unaffordable ticket to Florida).

Luckily, I have interesting and exciting friends to come to my rescue yet again.  This week, my friend Rae passed her EMT certification exam.

Apart from making significant progress towards a legitimate career and all that, more importantly, I now never have to worry about choking to death around her.  To celebrate, we went shopping down at the Magnificent Mile.  My inner tourist was thrilled.

To reward herself for all of her hard work, Rae got some pretty cute stuff on sale.  To reward myself for all of Rae's hard work, I got myself some much needed summer work attire.

Other than that, there's not much to say about this week.  Ending the post here would be pretty lame, though, so the show must go on.  Apart from new clothes and gross skin ailments, the highlights of the week were...

I got my tan on.  And this time I remembered the sunscreen.

I had one the most unusual work weeks of my short, working-adult career.  People sometimes ask me what I do as a patent paralegal.  And I hate that question because it's really impossible (for me at least) to answer.  Basically, I do whatever an attorney needs to be done at the time.

That can sometimes be some pretty mundane stuff that makes the four years I spent pulverizing my brain with immune cell function and oxidation states a waste, things like keeping track of due dates and filing patent applications with the Patent Office.

It can also sometimes be things that actually pertain to what I learned in college, such as double-checking an attorney's analysis of a potential mayonnaise patent infringement (you may not think that mayo has anything to do with biochemistry, but I can tell you after going through 30 pages of monosaturated fatty acid patent claims: it does).

This week, my job was less paralegal and more historian.  On Monday, my boss came over with a big box of case files marked in all caps to "KEEP FOREVER," and told me that he did not, in fact, want to keep this box forever.  He did, however, want a certain document from a judgement in the case... a judgement passed over 50 years ago.

I now know more about the state of the 1950's cream cheese industry than I'm sure any of you could ever hope to accomplish.

I also decided with approximately 85% certainty that I am going to run in another marathon in October.  I've been running with a pretty hardcore group for a few weeks now, and it's really motivated me to get back into racing.  Last Monday, I ran with one girl who went to one of the best DII cross country schools in the country.  Back in my sophomore year, while I was experiencing the sophistication of European culture...

... grooming horses...

... and falling in love with this lovely man...

... she and her team were at NCAA cross country nationals.  More specifically, winning NCAA cross country nationals.  Being back around talented, competitive runners makes me realize that, although I have enjoyed the last few months of a much needed break from running, I will never be able to kick the habit.

I haven't fully committed to the race yet because I'm not sure if I will be able to give it a solid effort.  I know it is possible to work full time and train for a marathon, but I'm not sure it's possible to work full time, train for a marathon, prepare for one of the most important tests of my career, and maintain some sort of social life.  I'm going to give it a trial run for a few weeks to see if I can (or want to) handle it.  However, I'm serious enough about it that I've already made up my training plan.

I may be still undecided, but things are getting serious once Excel gets involved.

I bought a window AC unit.  My "vintage" apartment with its radiators and questionable plumbing is fine in the winter, but I've finally spent one evening too many grumbling 2 feet in front of my box fan with ice packs on each of my limbs.  I've put off this expensive investment because despite the many things I've learned to do on my own, installing somewhat major home appliances isn't one of them.

Just getting it to my apartment (on the third floor) was an ordeal in itself; I'll just say that it involved a "borrowed" shopping cart and giving my Betty Spaghetti biceps and triceps a task that they very much weren't designed for.  As I sit here writing this, I'm looking over my screen at this:

dreading my next task, which is finding a way to install this monstrously heavy and expensive addition to my life.

So I'll leave you with that.  Maybe next week, I'll have some more festivals or spontaneous trips to share.  Until then, I hope you all enjoy your thankfully air-conditioned week, because I know I certainly will!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Is this even worth blogging about?

Sitting down to write this, I realized that this week was really nothing spectacular. I considered that it might not even be worth blogging about. I mean, obviously it depends on whose standards you're going by:

If you haven't left your room this week, then pull up and hold on to your Depends because my week is going to blow your mind.

But if you have friends like Vince, who just successfully passed yet another quarter of the gruesome test that will one day make him a CPA, then I really don't belong on the internet.  (Side note: I think my mom is thinking about adopting Vince; what a disappointment that none of her offspring want to follow her footsteps and spaghettify their minds with numbers.)

Or if you have friends like Suzi, who just recently learned that she was one of the few students selected to go to a plenary session at the International Astronomical Congress in Beijing in September to talk about space exploration and otherwise impressively important shiz, then my post will be as moving as Ruby coughing up yet another hairball.

What tipped the scale in favor of posting this week was imagining what Steph would do if I didn't.  And it would probably involve a knife.  So, the highlights of my week:

I did serious work at work.  Other than finding a bathroom when you really, really have to go, crossing off "to-do" items could be the most satisfying feeling in the world.  My extreme efficiency actually backfired, though; I finished so much in the first half of the week that I hardly had anything to do on Thursday and Friday (cue the violins, I know).

I got Instagram on my phone.  Yeah, I guess I'm that girl.

My first LSAT prep book came in the mail.  If my future career goals were a marathon, this would be about the equivalent of downloading a training program.  But you've gotta start somewhere, and judging by the pleasantly intrigued look on this guy's face, I've picked as good a place as any!

I ran 4 days this week.  Usually not noteworthy for me, but I've been in elliptical-hibernation mode after moving from the Sunshine State.  It's finally summer, though, so it's time I can enjoy the beautiful city where I live.  I've found a pretty serious running group in the area (I'm talking 20+ Boston qualifiers all in one place) that I've been running with on Monday nights.  I wasn't sure if I was ready to start training for races again, but I'm rethinking that after my leisurely Friday run turned into a tempo workout because some girl in Sophie shorts didn't like me passing her.  Completely unnecessary races against total strangers?  May be a sign I need to start racing again.

For the first time ever, I made plans around a hockey game.  As much as I normally try to ignore that sports and teams exist other than football and the Ravens, it just can't be done when the Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup finals.  So I'm embracing my unashamed bandwagonery;  I met up with some friends and made some new ones on Saturday night to watch Game 2.  To be honest, everyone's your friend around here when the Hawks are on, especially after a round of pickleback shots.  (Yes, they are very real and yes, we did have them.  Life's always throwing you curveballs.)

I missed my family, especially my dad, on Father's Day.  Public blogs on the internet are no place for sincere, heartfelt emotion so I won't go on about this too much.  I know everyone says this, and they might even believe it, but I know the truth: I do have the best dad in the world.  I love the exciting adventures in my life and exploring new places around the country, but it doesn't come without a price; I miss my family, including my dad who has always been my role model and hands down my biggest fan.

(Yes, Kelsey, before you say anything, I did notice your very inappropriately placed head on my shoulder.  And I chose to ignore it.)

So that was my week.  If neither that nor my super smart friends impressed you, then I apologize but that's all I've got.  But before you leave to go find something more impressive or just plain funnier, I'm going to warn you that even if you don't think my post-it notes and LSAT prep books are big news now... one day, like when you're thinking about cutting off your boobs, you might:

This week, the Skimm (the main source for all my world news) shared this story about the Supreme Court's decision that genes, like the ones that indicate a high risk for breast cancer, cannot be patented.  It's a huge story on its own just because of its implications for medical research, but it's even a bigger deal for me because it basically combines everything that has or will be relevant to my career: science and patent law.

So while the article title says "Supreme Court says genes can't be patented," I read "Nicole, what you're doing is at least somewhat relevant to society."  And knowing that, maybe you might think my week is a bit more impressive (or at very least, comparable to a cat mew-ing in a bathtub).

Hope you all have a great week!  And, of course, if you ever want to help make my week more impressive by stopping up (or over, depending on where you're from) for a visit to the Windy City, I'm always missing my long distance friends and family... I've got a little red pull-out couch with your name on it!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

such a pleasant surprise

I thought I'd be spending this week as a sleep deprived zombie, showering in a borderline repulsive bathroom alongside a mountain of dirty laundry (spending two weekends in a row out of state doesn't leave a lot of time for basic weekend activities like cleaning your bathroom, doing your laundry, or, you know, sleeping).

And I was right, because I did spend most of my week as a sleep deprived zombie, showering in a borderline repulsive bathroom alongside a mountain of dirty laundry.  What I hadn't predicted, though, was that I would more specifically be a pleasantly surprised sleep deprived zombie, showering in a borderline repulsive bathroom alongside a mountain of dirty laundry... because this week was full of pleasant surprises!

First, my sweet, sweet man of a boyfriend sent me flowers at work...

Half of my firm now thinks that my birthday is in June, while the other (more informed) half now knows that I somehow managed to find quite a catch down in Florida.

Secondly, I made the ultimate cost efficient addition to my already picture perfect apartment (for which I won $100 off my rent this month, thanks to the lovely peeps who voted for me on Facebook!):

Apparently, someone saw no more use for this little black Ikea table and decided to throw it out.  Being the stingy economical city dweller that I am, I picked this baby off the curb, scrubbed the shiz out of it, and set it right alongside my growing collection of Craig's List and second-hand pieces.  Nothing quite like relaxing with my feet up on this slightly chipped but totally free gem (which had previously been impossible with its predecessor, the fold-up TV table compliments of my dad from when I first moved in).

Thirdly, (and ok, this wasn't really a surprise), I took advantage of one of the freedoms of a completely self-supporting, responsible, legal adult with a full time job and otherwise wholesome hobbies: enjoying some happy hour drinks with a few friends from work.

Of course I would ruin the one picture we took.  I guess this does more accurately portray what was going on at that point: I was being told that if we were the Spice Girls, I would be Baby Spice because I am blonde and technically (as the youngest) the baby of the group anyway.  I inexplicably and pretty unreasonably found this deeply insulting, and don't seem to have hid it well.

My co-workers are pretty fun, so happy hour turned out to be happy four or five hours.  I continue to learn life lessons daily since I've moved to the city (for example, just because a week's worth of groceries can fit into two WalMart shopping bags doesn't guarantee that your groceries won't end up all over the street on your way home) and last night was no exception: I now know that starting a tab is not something that turns out well, unless "well" means spending $30 on average-at-best Pinot Grigio and baby glasses of sangria.

It turns out even worse if you are (unlike me) an especially generous drinker who sees no problem with buying the table a round of shots.  I was infuriated to learn that I  had spent close to $30 without even getting any food; had I been as gracious a soul as Amy and Paul and bought a round for the group, I would have had a sure meltdown (and mostly certainly taken the bar down with me).

Fourthly, I randomly stumbled upon yet another reason why I love this city.  I happened to read one of Elin Hilderbrand's (of whose books, such as The Blue Bistro, I really like) Facebook statuses saying that she was going to be in Chicago this weekend.  Turns out some committee (that I can only assume to be named "The Committee for Organizing All Things Nicole Likes") organized a festival that combines two of my favorite things in the world: books and food.

So Saturday, I met up with Rae (who is also a fan of good books, especially the cheap kind) to go to the Printers Row Lit Fest downtown.

You know how when Tom sees Jerry and imagines him as a roast turkey?  That's the little thought bubble that pops up over my head when I see this...

Three dollar a book, all books imaginable.  I was in heaven.

To make the day even better, I was introduced for the first time (I think) to the joy of Thai food.  Rae and I split some appetizers of Spring Rolls and Summer Rolls;  I had never so much as had a rice noodle before, and here I was enjoying half a calendar year of rolls.

We were both pretty excited about it.

So that was my week.  Seeing as I started it expecting the highlights to be scrubbing my bathroom tiles and doing my laundry, I'd say it really surpassed my expectations with flying colors.  That's not to say that I didn't clean the bathroom or wash my clothes; I did.  But doing grown-up chores is so  much more tolerable when you have red sangria and discount priced books sprinkled in between.

Hope you all have a pleasantly surprising week!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dang it, where's my walker?

The thing about my little habit of moving around the country is that I keep leaving people I love behind, hundreds of miles away.  Which is inconvenient and expensive, to say the least.  My tour of the eastern United States continued this weekend, this time in good ol' MD to see my little baby sister graduate high school.  Seriously, this little minion...

turned in to this stunning woman-child...

... and is going to college.  So what does that make me?  Staking out retirement homes, I guess.

My stinginess doesn't stop at buying Great Value toilet paper at Walmart; I'm also pretty stingy with vacation days, so I didn't take any time off from work to fly home for the ceremony.  That left me a pretty narrow window for travel, starting with my flight out of Chicago at 8 PM Friday.  The day was long, tiring, filled with crying babies, the questionable Orange Line train crowd, and overpriced airport sandwiches.  Luckily, all this was forgotten when I saw my mom at BWI accompanied by my grandfather from Colorado.

From there, I tried to stop another whirlwind weekend from going by too fast.  Saturday morning, I became designated "Grandparent Chauffeur," delegated the task of driving Nana and Pop (from Baltimore) and my grandfather (from CO) in our old, red minivan to the graduation ceremony.  There's nothing like spending your morning listening in on another generation's small talk, as they pondered among themselves things like how Uncle Dennis sends his email messages with red text (Nana's suggestion, that "maybe he has a red cartridge in his computer," was my personal favorite).

I didn't realize that the drive would be the most comfortable I'd be for the next 3 hours.  Don't get my wrong - Sam's graduation was lovely.  Sam herself, being the luckily recipient of superior DNA, was of course beautiful.

And because I'm not the only one with a little minion, I got to chat for a little with a few fellow JC pals.

And the ceremony itself was pretty.

But it was hot.  I mean, rivaling Florida miserable, the sort of days that led to the development of extra strength deodorant.  This evidently posed no problem for the introductory speaker, though, as she decided that the afternoon's weather was ideal for reading out loud Dr. Suess's "Oh the Places You'll Go."  In its entirety.  I was clever enough to plan out a few strategic trips into the air-conditioned school, but there's only so many times you can "go to the bathroom" before people start thinking you're pregnant.

My grandfathers, on the other hand, saw no problem with completely abandoning any pretenses of toughing out the weather to see my sister walk the stage; we found them two hours later having a grand old time under a shade tree near the water station.  To be totally honest, they had the right idea.

At least it didn't rain, though, which would have caused major problems for the family BBQ we had after the ceremony.  Among other graduation gifts, my grandmother brought 60 Polish sausages to the party... and even my dad, GrillMaster Extraordinaire, would have a hard time grilling sixty brats inside.  But the sunshine did hold up, and the party was great.  It involved a lot of delicious food, which included (as does every important Clarke event) the most important development after extra strength deodorant:

It seemed like the house was even more packed than usual seeing as (in addition to the Baltimore based Clarke's), some of my mom's side was there, including Grandpa from Denver and my mom's sister and her family from New Jersey.  The whole event teetered dangerously on the border of chaos (I'd be lying if I denied that, at one point, we broke out in a debate on gay marriage that was quite unnecessarily heated, seeing as no one involved nor anyone present was gay or getting married).  But that's what makes family events fun... or at least entertaining.

(We have a better, less candid picture of the whole crew, but I think this one captures the family spirit a little more accurately.)

I was even lucky enough to see my "BFF from back in the day" Hannah, who stopped by for a while.  Maybe she just came for the cupcakes, but beggars can't be choosers.

Saturday turned out to be just as long as Friday, but I much prefer ending long days in my living room watching the NFL network with my dad, reassuring each other that Joe Flacco is indeed a gift from God, than trying to squeeze past Mrs. Puff in seat 26D to get to the airplane bathroom.  By the time I finally ended up on the train home to Chicago, though, I felt a little bit like Jazz here...

... who also had an exhausting weekend, scurrying purposefully from room to room, keeping a worried eye on the alarming number of new ankles to sniff.

I am so incredibly lucky to have such amazing people in my life to fly across the country for.  But even though spending these last two weekends with the wonderful people I love has been grand, it's definitely taken a toll on my energy (and my bank account).  So as of now, I'm looking forward to getting my backside a little better acquainted with my little, red Craig's List couch in Chicago.  After all, she's earned it - anyone who's been shoved into economy class seating two weekends in a row deserves a little R&R.