Friday, April 29, 2011

HiBall and this american life

Holy Moses.

I am so tired.

Probably not the best time to write a blog post. I'm in my 24th hour of being awake. I just finished my 18 hour shift. That's EIGHTEEN, just in case you missed it. But I'm not complaining.

I work with adolescents who have developmental disabilities. They live in a group home and we the staff provide 24 hour care. I've been working here for 2 1/2 years. I'm very close to beating my old record of longest time employed at one place. I worked as a server at a mom and pop restaurant for 3 months shy of 3 years. That was a good character building job. It taught me how to talk to strangers. Before that, I was never very good.

Here are a bunch of reasons why I love my now job.

  1. I work with kids with developmental disabilities. 
  2. They are the coolest group of people
  3. I'm often humbled by how loving and accepting they are ...("I want to give my clothes to the poor people...") 
  4. Sometimes we get to go to movies or plays
  5. Other times we get to go on hikes or to parks 
  6. The pet store employees know us 
  7. GREAT conversation
  8. I (with the help of the kiddo) get to plan out what my shift looks like
  9. Unpredictable. One minute you're coloring, the next you're dodging teeth
  10. Hilarious. Like the time one kid asked if I would "french fry" her hair. Another time I got called a "chocolate chip cookie dough whore." 
  11. My employer pays for new glasses if one of the kids breaks them. I found that out first hand
  12. I get the privilege to care for the marginalized
  13. They've taught me not to worry so much about how I appear to other people. You better believe we're singing in the grocery store and holding hands in the mall. And no, we're not lesbians (someone really asked that once). And yes, despite what you may think, she has a beautiful voice. So please don't stare or snicker. She notices
In just over a month, I'm dropping down to one shift a week. It's bitter sweet. I'm so very excited to start grad school, but I know that once I start that journey it means I'm transitioning out of these people's lives. Being that I've worked with these kids for as long as I have, I've been able to build some pretty awesome relationships and witness huge amounts of growth. It will be hard for me to watch new staff come in and take over my role, but I have to trust that God loves these kids way more than I ever could, and he will continue to take care of them, even without me in the picture. 

I have to give a shout out to the makers of   HiBall and This American Life. I rarely work overnights and I think there's only been three times I've ever worked a swing/overnight double. It was good to have a source of caffeine that doesn't give me gut rot, and something to engage my mind so as to keep me from dozing. I couldn't have done it without you guys. 

Good Morning! *yawn*. I'm going to bed... 

Friday, April 22, 2011

the dreaded GRE

Here's the technical definition of the GRE (Graduate Record Exam): "a standardized exam used to measure one's aptitude for abstract thinking in the areas of analytical writing, mathematics and vocabulary. The GRE is commonly used by many graduate schools to determine an applicant's eligibility for the program."

Here's my definition of the GRE: "a means of torture that you pay $160 for, which involves 3-6 months of hardcore preparation all leading up to the dreaded 3 hours of anxiety and panic, which the results of said 3 hours will either bring celebration or crush all of your hopes and dreams."

I knew going into this process that taking the GRE was inevitable. It was required. I knew that a minimum score of 900 was needed. For those who don't keep tabs on the GRE scoring system, a perfect score is 1600 which would be the combined total of an 800 in mathematics and 800 in vocabulary. It also includes 2 different essays which are scored on a scale from 1-6. 

So. All I needed was a 900, right? Wrong. In actuality, the people who were accepted into the program last year all scored between 1000-1200. So really, 900 just wouldn't cut it. It's like fine print. "The minimum GPA required is 3.3" "But really we won't consider anyone who has below a 3.8."

My original plan was to borrow a study guide from a coworker who had been planning on taking it, because those books are like, $40, and if I'm going to spend $40 it's going to be on a pair of jeans. Or more realistically, groceries. 

When I got my friend's book, I was slightly distracted by all of the work he had already done, and it was hard to get an accurate judgement of where I was when all of the answers on the practice tests were staring me in the face. So I sucked it up and forked over $40 for my own brand spanking new GRE study guide. And 1 month later, I bought another one. Because they are that much fun. 

Long story short, I did well. I busted out an 1120 and it was probably one of the highlights of this whole process. I've never been good at the standardized tests, and I thought for sure I'd be lucky to get a 900. I had taken 5 practice tests that ranged anywhere from 850-1050, so I was shocked. And shaking. And totally stoked. 

So, if you have to take the GRE, here are a few tips that worked well for me: 
  • give yourself 3 months to prepare. Over those three months try and devote one or two days a week to going through the study guide
  • I used Princeton Review and Kaplan study books and I thought the two complemented each other very nicely
  • do timed practice tests to get an idea of how to pace yourself
  • lastly, vocab. Make vocabulary flashcards and study. 
For those of you who don't have to take this test, thank your lucky stars. For those that do, good luck! 

the color sense game

Who doesn't love a good personality quiz?

I discovered one called, Color Sense Game. It asks the questions, "What color do you feel?" It's full of beautiful pictures and descriptive words that are suppose to help "reveal" your color personality!

There was no surprise here! My primary color match was water beads, (a.k.a blue), which shows that I crave calm, peaceful environments. My secondary color match was almonds and honey, (a.k.a. yellow) which represents clarity and happiness.

What is your color sense?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

reusable produce bags

Yes. That really is a big pile of tulle. And a very wrinkly tablecloth. 

One of the gifts we got last Christmas was a set of really nice reusable grocery bags. I was so excited to use them! I remember my first grocery shopping trip where I brought the bags along. I ended up feeling weirdly hypocritical as I was handing my reusable grocery bags to the bagger and looking at all of the little plastic produce bags I had used. 

I know you can buy different kinds of reusable produce bags, but where's the fun in that? It's just too easy!

The other night I came across this wonderfully, easy tutorial, and I knew I had to give it a go!

Here's the before picture: You'll notice the oranges are in the plastic bag from the store.

Here's the after picture: The oranges are now in a reusable and fun, yellow tulle bag.

A yard of fabric made 4 bags. At $0.79 a yard, I'd say that's a pretty fantastic deal!

*Disclaimer: It seems that when you combine weird apartment lighting with someone trying to figure out a new camera, you get some kind of crazy effects. Hopefully as I begin to figure stuff out, my pictures will improve. So thanks for bearing with me...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

taking a walk on the crafty side

The beautiful and unabashed artwork of my 2 year old niece

I remember when I was younger (I'm talking seven or eight) I had hopes that someday I would write and illustrate a children's mystery novel. For those of you who know me, feel free to laugh. I would spend hours filling notebooks with pictures of characters, giving each one a personality and a name. After I while, I got bored because all my people looked pretty much the same. Ask me to draw a person today, and it wouldn't look much different than my drawings at eight. That's how good I am. 

Another art form I was introduced to at a young age was cross stitching. All the women on my dad's side of the family are creative and crafty. And bless my Gramma's heart, she took on the challenge of teaching me to cross stitch. I enjoyed it. It was relaxing and it kept my hands busy. (I've always been fidgety) But, again, with no patience to learn different types of stitches, my cross stitching plateaued pretty quickly, and I got bored. 

My Gramma must have really loved me, because she also agreed to help me sew a barbie dress. That experience was traumatic enough that it would be the last time I would touch a sewing machine for almost 10 years. 

Here's the thing. I was a tomboy. I was the boyish-looking kid who loved sports and would spend hours outside with friends getting dirty climbing trees and rescuing snakes. 

I was a conflicted child. I went through phases were I wanted to draw and sew and craft, but when I would get frustrated with a project, I'd run outside, pick up a ball, and play. 

Today, I still feel conflicted. I have gone through so many short lived crafty phases. I can't tell you how many times I've attempted to knit something.  My honeymoon scrapbook, I fear, will never be done. When I bought my sewing machine two years ago, I had big dreams of making bags and clothes. In reality, Tomboy Andrea doesn't have the patience to accept the fact that being a beginner sewer means it that it won't turn out perfectly, there are going to be stupid mistakes made, and it will take at least fifteen times longer than the tutorial says.  

My point is, (yes, I have a point), that if I want to improve and cultivate my crafty side, I need to practice. I need to be okay if the finished result isn't perfect. (Even though I don't have the patience to create perfection, I still expect it). I need to not undertake huge projects that will take me a lifetime to finish. And most important, I cannot compare myself to the crafty brilliance that surrounds me. 

As long as I keep that in mind, it shouldn't be long until I open my own etsy shop! (juuuust kidding!)  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

my love affair with A&P: part 2

Mr. Fillmore is a "no frills" kind of man. Once class started, it was on. We had our first lecture test the Friday of the second week of school. There was no time for dorking around.

The lectures leading up the first exam was filled with rapid note taking (I'm talking hand cramps), anxiety brought on by terms and processes I had "learned" once before, and fear. Definitely fear. What was most disturbing to me, though, was that I was actually interested in the material. I found myself completely engaged and at times even giddy. Yep, I probably looked like a freak smiling through A&P class, but I couldn't help it. It was so fascinating!

Despite that I was engaged, interested, and definitely learning, I still had the dark cloud from my past hanging over my head. This girl just doesn't do well in science classes. After my first exam, I was a nervous wreck waiting for my grade to be posted. I don't know if you've been there before where you feel like you did well, but then you feel that because you feel you did well, you must have done terribly. You follow?  I got 105%. I celebrated with ice cream.

But the dark cloud didn't go away all quarter. After every test I thought, the other tests were just a fluke, there's no way you can keep up this act. You don't do good in biology classes. I actually cried after my second test because I thought I did so poorly. I ended up getting 100%.

The purpose of this is not to talk about how awesome I did in A&P class, but the identity crisis that it seemed to cause. I was freakin' out! I had never, ever identified myself with science-y people, but I couldn't deny my passion for A&P. I don't know what changed in me. Was it the learning environment or maybe just because I'm older and more focused? Maybe I had the potential all along. I don't know.

What I do know is that I love A&P class. I love learning how the body fits together and how all of the different processes work in keeping us going. I have a great deal of respect to those who have donated their bodies to science so we can learn. I love that because of this class I learned so much about myself.

I no longer have anxiety over biology classes. I'm not afraid of the cadaver lab I have to do this summer. I have fully embraced this science-y part of me. And it feels pretty darn good.

Monday, April 4, 2011

my love affair with A&P: part 1

My decision to go back to school came with a little anxiety. Up to that point I had gone through most of my academic career without fully applying myself. I never did terrible, but I wasn't one of those people who classmates went to for help, that's for sure.

One of the things that always kept me from really trying is the fear of failure. I could be happy with getting A-'s and B's, and the occasional A, because I wasn't completely invested. But, what if I did try and I still couldn't pull it off? I mean, I was the athlete of the family. That was my role. My older sister carried the academic torch. Heck, even my other siblings had me beat. Looking back, I can see that I was the only one putting limits on myself, and I was definitely living up to my expectations, which were clearly not that high.

But now my expectations had shifted. When I started this whole process, I told myself that I would be in this 100%. No slacking.

Since I had taken most of the prerequisites during my undergrad, I only had 3 classes to take: Intro to OT, Statistics (barf), and Anatomy and Physiology. I squeezed into the A&P class and Intro to OT for the fall quarter, but I decided to wait until winter quarter to take Statistics. I filled the rest of my credits with a sign language class and a fitness class. Apart from the A&P, my schedule was cake.

On my first day of school, I got to my A&P class 45 minutes early. A little overzealous, perhaps? I paged through my giant elephant of a textbook and thought, what have I gotten myself into?

When the classroom was free I walked into the auditorium and sat myself in the center of the third row. I knew nobody. I jotted a few things in my planner trying to look studious and like I didn't mind not having anyone to talk to while I waited for Mr. Fillmore to start the class.

Now, I did my homework and looked up Mr. Fillmore on, and from what I could tell, he was pretty fantastic. It wasn't him I was worried about, but the subject matter. Biology and I had quite a history together. During my undergrad I took Human Biology, Microbiology, and Advanced Physiology.I skirted by with B's, but oh the torture. I spent ridiculous amounts of time memorizing facts and regurgitating them for tests, but I never understood it. And most of all, I hated lab. h-a-t-e-d it. I wanted nothing to do with decapitated frogs and sheep's eyes. Ugh.

After lecture that first day, I left class feeling hopeful. Hopeful that I could understand the concepts. Hopeful that I could pull off a 4.0. Hopeful that maybe I'd make some friends. Hopeful that I could get a letter of recommendation from Mr. Fillmore.

Hope was good, but it only got better.