The Good Old Days

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It has recently come to my attention that I was living a fantasy life in New York.  The only problem is that it was just my normal life, so now everything else just seems so ordinary and difficult and unexciting.  I just went to work and school.  Bought groceries and shared countless meals with the best friends a girl could ever ask for.  Went to weekend movies and practically froze to death in cold winters that never seemed to end.  Missed family events and spent too much money on plane tickets.

But I lived for two years in the greatest city in the world... without paying a penny of rent (or any other living-type bills).  I was completely broke all the time, but I still went to more Broadway shows than movies.  I spent sleepless nights in a Harlem hospital, but there were also a few legendary nights spent in far more exciting places.  For all the complaining and buying more pairs of fleece-lined leggings, I will forever daydream about the February when it snowed every single day.  And regardless of what anyone says, it kind of actually is just like Friends, with people who become your family somewhere along the way.  The ones who complain right along with you and drop everything after great dates and breakups and just always seem to be around.

So as I sit in my Kansas condo watching coverage of a hurricane that destroyed that adopted home of mine a year ago tonight, I can't help but think how odd it is.  Make no mistake.  It is impossibly hard to live in New York City.  You're stranded twenty blocks from a subway with no chance of catching a cab in the rain.  Exhausted from carrying groceries and Christmas presents all over the city, since leaving them in your car isn't really an option.  It's lonely and cold and so busy you can't even think straight.  And, of course, there's the whole disaster-prone, terrorist-targeted, constant-fear existence on a 24/7 basis.  But somehow it just seemed so easy, to have everything you could ever need in a five-block radius, a doorman to sign for your packages, a cab to the airport, and eight friends to have dinner with on any given night.  Lots of things are easier in Kansas.  Few things compare to loving my job and seeing my family almost every weekend.  Also, I don't have half a million dollars to buy a one-bedroom apartment.  I'm just so used to this whole other life now.

Because it can't be the greatest city in the world without the struggle to make it home.

A Drop In The Ocean

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It all started right here on this very block...

That view right there?  It's the root of all my restlessness/problems/expenses/urbanite adventures/addictions/loves.  You see, 17-ish years ago, The Chief allowed a 13-year-old me to walk solo from the door of our Boston hotel to a bookstore at the end of the block.  I'm sure this was influenced by my extreme boredom of being cooped up in a hotel room and her single-mother-guilt at leaving me alone during her conference.  Little did she know what she started.  Two or three trips each to Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Paris, London, etc. etc. etc.  ... plus ten trips to New York before living there two-and-a-half years ... I'm pretty sure that it all began on that block between the Omni Parker House and a Boston Barnes & Noble.

There's just nothing better than New England as the leaves change.  It's my favorite time of year in my favorite place.  It's foggy mornings and hot apple cider and the smell of the ocean and falling in love.  

It's bright red trees and wandering with nowhere in particular to go and late nights with friends and this song...

So needless to say, I returned from Boston and immediately booked a flight to New York.  All in the name of dissertation research, of course.  Because the only thing better than New England in the fall is New York at first snowfall.  Maybe, just maybe...

Ivy League Love

Sunday, October 13, 2013

You all know I'm a bit a total higher ed nerd.  I love all things college, campuses built around a quad, and big libraries full of old-smelling books.  I have hundreds of books about how colleges work and student development theories and such.  And yes, I live in a little college town that revolves around a campus on a hill.  But Boston is like the ultimate college town.  There dozens of colleges in Boston, so it seemed like a pretty good place to start my dissertation research.

Now, I can't actually talk about any of that dissertation research or where I went or who I talked to.  It's all super highly confidential.  All I can really say on {the ivy project} is that it's about tragedies on college campuses.  But you already knew that.  Seriously, like CIA top-secret stuff.  I even have to make up fake names for the people I interview.

And speaking of making up names, remember this post about a little family bet?  Back to that soon.

Obviously, while visiting this great college town, I had to pay my respects to the ultimate in higher education.  This was not my first visit to Harvard, but it just gets me every time.  Harvard is over 375 years old and is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States.   It's this very odd mix of a serene quad surrounded by perfect red brick buildings and dudes in pilgrim costumes giving tours of historic Cambridge.  Yep.  And while this was not my first visit to Harvard, it did feel a little different this time.  The thing is... this time it wasn't this totally unattainable idea.  Having acquired ABD status at Columbia and well on my way to a doctorate from an Ivy League institution, it sort of felt like I fit in.  Like it just made sense.  Yes, I'm a doc candidate at a rival institution, but... it's not so impossible anymore.  (I know what you're thinking.  I can hear it in the back of my head too.  And I probably maybe have no plans to go to Harvard next.  Whatever.)

Hey look, the Office of Student Life.  Maybe that should be me someday...

And while at Harvard, obviously I had to make a little side trip to find this one little place...

So do you think that counts as getting into Harvard Law?  Did I earn my naming rights?  

I'm thinking probably not quite yet.  

But while we were there, The Chief and I might as well take a look around, don't you think?  How did we manage to get inside of the Harvard Law Library, the largest law library in the world?  There's really no way of knowing.  Maybe we followed one of the pilgrim dudes into the building on a tour.  I really can't say.  So if ever there was hope of getting into Harvard Law, I probably ruined my chances.  Surely they know about this by now.  It was pretty fun though.  If only I could spend all of my days wandering around old libraries and drinking coffee on the quad.  Oh wait...

So for the purposes of protecting my research, I did not involve anyone from Harvard in dissertation interviews.  I did make the rounds of quite a few Beantown colleges.  And seriously, I wish I could do nothing but dissertation research interviews and hang out in cool coffee shops all day.  That would be an awesome life.  Anyone want to contribute to the dissertation fund for that one?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you've got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?

Ok, so in all reality, only about five people in Boston know my name.  You get the idea though.  

Best cure for my yet-to-be-solved small town dilemma?  An entire week on the East Coast for all things  urban, coastal, Ivy League with The Chief.  Oh yeah, and a little dissertation research thrown in for good measure.  More on that later.  Having moved to the Midwest and not seen one inch of public transportation in four months, my big-city-loving self needed that nonstop flight from Kansas City to Boston like you can't even imagine.  And so for one week, I rode the subway to work, enjoyed an ongoing snobby discussion about the best lobster roll in the city, and lived life in a coastal city like a normal person...and loved every minute of it.

Don't you think I could be happy living here?  I could get a small sailboat to dock right outside my harbor-front condo.

We stayed right at the harbor-front near the North End (Boston's Little Italy), eating nothing but pasta, pastries, and lobster for six days.  It was magnificent.

Now, Boston isn't "my" town quite like another Eastern Seaboard metropolis, so The Chief and I took in all the sights and sounds like a good tourist.  We rod the hop-on-hop-off trolley...a lot.  We pretended to be more historical than we are in real life.  We trekked to the JFK Presidential Library, only to find it victim of the government shutdown.  We made way for duckings in the Boston Common.  We walked the entire Freedom Trail in the rain.  We cruised the harbor and ate lobster every single day (seriously).  We got caught up in Red Sox playoffs madness.  We rode the funny little trolley car system pretending to be a subway.  


We heard this song about 18 times in six days...they're big fans in Boston.

(Sidenote: have you ever actually listened to the lyrics of that song?  Who were these people?!?!)

And yes, we both actually did work while in Boston, but that's not really what was important.  Boston, oddly enough, is actually a pretty small town.  I mean, it's gigantic by Kansas standards, but when compared to New York, it's just this cute, quiet little place up north.  Yes, there is public transportation.  Yes, there are lots of people and restaurants and opportunities.  It just feels so quaint and comforting.  After all, it is just about half the size of New York.  But it was enough to get me through just a little bit longer.  Especially since it involved quality time with one of my favorite New Yorkers...

More Boston posts to come, but in the meantime, I'll just leave you with my favorite sight from the two-day trolley tour of Beantown...

Where The Wind Comes Sweeping Down the Plains

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sorry for going MIA on {the ivy project} lately.  I could give you lots of excuses about working full time and teaching a class while training for a half marathon and spending every weekend with family.  The truth is, I'm just not quite sure what to write about in Kansas.  It is, well... not New York.  Exciting things do not often happen.  And I sort of feel like people don't quite care to read about life in Kansas.  You all live this life already.  Go to work, drive home, grocery stores and gas stations, normal life.  New York was exciting and unknown and sort of hard to relate to for people west of the Hudson River.  Or so I believed, at least.

I might be a little caught up on that life in New York.

Or in denial about living a normal, non-New York kind of life.

Probably that one.

Other than seeing my family every weekend, which is by far the best part of Kansas, my students keep me unbelievably entertained.  I'm teaching a class for new freshmen.  It is every bit as funny as you might think.  We are reading The Worst Hard Time, KU's Common Book for the year distributed to all new students.  It really is a good book.  While I have a few star students, let's just say a historical account of the dust bowl didn't immediately grab their attention.

If you need a good laugh, here are a few excerpts from papers they wrote in class yesterday.  All I asked was for them to write everything they remembered about the two assigned chapters.

"was getting worse"
"a flock of whirlwinds happened"
"difficulties... drought... family"
"something about the government"
"maybe there was a president... or something about the president"
"there was a tornado... the dust bowl ended"
"the dust bowl ended, clear skies formed, and people had hope, but then the clouds came back out."
"i did not read, sorry.  was really busy with homecoming."

Seriously, these kids are hilarious.  You've got to give them credit for creativity.  So maybe we still need to work on why reading the assigned textbook is an important part of college success.  (Maybe I needed to work on that when I was their age, too.)  But for all the silly descriptions and excuses and extremely vivid recreations of the dust bowl, every once in awhile one writes something that actually makes sense...

"I believe that it was to display the heart that our forefathers had, and to solidify the idea of hope to a generation who is entering college."

And sometimes, just because they can't take it anymore, we draw pictures of the dust bowl in class...

So that's all from Kansas.  Dust bowls and wheat fields on the way home from work and treks across a campus built on a hill.

But stay tuned, because {the ivy project} is about to return to all things urban, Ivy League, and New England in the fall.  Kansas is just going to have to wait.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk

Friday, August 30, 2013

It has been a totally monumental week, people.  Really big deal.  Epic things happened.  I mean... as epic as things can be west of the Hudson River.  Let's just be real clear about that before we move on.  There were no celebrity sightings, no falling in love, no New York kinds of things.  But still...

Here is what happened.  It was Hawk Week at the University of Kansas.  Given that I run new student orientation programs, I was a little busy.  In two days, we saw over 600 students at orientation and thousands more at a weekend full of welcome festivities.  Also, I got a sofa...

This was my first major furniture purchase, and my credit card had the charge to prove it.  Thank you, West Elm.  It took eight weeks to arrive, so thankfully my living room furniture no longer consists of an air mattress.  You may now all come to visit.  But um, you could still bring some furniture along.  It's not done yet.  

Hawk Week was sort of like my official introduction to life at KU.  I learned as much as the new students, for sure.  And obviously Baby Sister and Just Matt had to come along.  How could they have possibly missed Hawk Week?

Traditions Night was the best.  We learned all we needed to know to be official Jayhawks.  Also, we had super special VIP seats on the front row of the football stadium.  I'm kind of a big deal.  Also, we love Baby Jay (not to be confused with Big Jay).

Chants and cheers and alma maters and claps later, we were officially part of the Jayhawk family.  Just Matt was super happy.  And it's a good thing, since he was kind enough to build me this gorgeous new bed...

Not even kidding.  It went a little something like this, starting from a door acquired at the architectural salvage store in Wichita...

Obviously, I was extremely helpful in this whole process.  I paid for the door and took the photos.  Everything else was the work of brother-in-law.  But overall, pretty successful weekend in Kansas.  And just when work got really stressful and student issues were way-too-overwhelming, my wonderful coworkers showed up with cotton candy.  Because I have a great job.

But let's just get one thing clear, people.

Sic Em Bears.