Tuesday, August 19, 2008

one man's trash is another man's treasure...

Hello everyone! I have been meaning to write this week; but our week has been pretty busy. In the mean time, I wanted to share something that I probably already emailed to a lot of you. I am copying and pasting an email that Jason sent out this evening.

He explains his request much more efficiently that I could, but I would like to ask you to really go take a look at your bookshelf or magazine pile. Books have a way of hiding in our shelves after awhile and we can forget their presence. In the process of merging our book collections we had lots of duplicate copies of books, so we have started the collection of books already! I remember being consistently disappointed with many of my teacher's class libraries because they didn't trust us with their most beloved books...this is a great way that Jason can offer these students a huge variety of literature they may have never been exposed to before.

So, without futher adieu, here is Jason's email...and for visual, a picture of Bartleby with the book he was named after. :)

"Good evening to you all,

I am writing with a request. For those of you who have been reading my journal letters on my teaching experience, you will already know what I am up to this year. And if you have not been and would like to be, just send me a reply letting me know and I'll add you to the mailing list.

But this year, and for at least the next two years, I'll be teaching on the south side of Chicago for Teach For America. TFA serves low-income, mostly Title I schools (where over 75% of students are on reduced or free lunch) where the students in high school are as much as four to five years educationally behind their peers in higher income neighborhoods. Our goals for the year are for our students to improve at least two grade levels in a single year, while also showing 80% mastery on state standards for the given grade level.

I will be teaching 10th grade English Language Arts at South Shore School of Entrepreneurship, which just so happens to be American Literature. School begins the 2nd of September and I am so excited to start the school year and meet all the students I will be working with. And here comes my request.

So far I have just asked support in the form of prayers. Along with the previously mentioned goals for the year, I also have a huge personal goal of getting every one of my students to READ this year! So many of today's high school students have made up their minds that they do not like to read, despise the books they are forced to read in their high school classes, and look forward to being finished with school. I want to change that.

By forming Reading Clubs on Wednesdays in which every student in every one of my classes will spend time in class reading whatever they want, and then discussing it with their Reading Club groups, providing students with choices as to who they can research and read for their major writing projects, integrating classic and contemporary writing, magazine articles, websites, newspapers, and other current writing publications, I want to show my students that being able to read and write has real world significance - that the written and spoken word carry power and influence!

Not wanting to take up too much more of your time, I will just say that several other reading and writing activities are in the works for this year. And to really see the vision I have for my class carried out, I really want to have a quality classroom library for my students.

What I am asking is for you to see if there are any old books or current magazines lying around your houses that are not being used, and if there are, would you be willing to send them to me to help supply my classroom library?

Not only would it be greatly, greatly appreciated by me, but anything you send would go directly into my classroom for my students to use for their Wednesday reading clubs, as well as other opportunities for free reading time. Magazines like Time, Newsweek, People, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Paste, interior design, art work, drawing, video games....etc., etc., etc., would be awesome! And for books, I am not only looking for "classics." Most of my students will be on a wide-range of reading abilities, so books for young adults or middle school students are great! Just about anything will work. Judy Bloom, Nancy Drew, Jerry Spinelli, and Gary Paulsen are not at all out of the question.

Thank you all so much for even taking the time to read over this email and anytime you spend searching your houses. Again, anything you send will go directly to my students, and if you are not already on my newsletter mailing list and would like to be, just let me know!

I love you and appreciate your support (in whatever form it comes in) more than I can properly express.

May God bless and keep you all,

6151 North Winthrop
Apartment 202
Chicago, IL 60660"

Friday, August 15, 2008

For now, Glenmerle

So, after I posted last night, I broke down and took some very bad pictures of our apartment with my cell phone. They are anything but high quality, but atleast you now have sneak-peak of what our humble abode looks like.

Our kitchen table!

One end of the kitchen! We don't really have any pictures in our frames right now, so don't look at that. Another shot of our red drop-leaf kitchen table that is perfect for just the two of us, but then opens up to seat eight. Love it. Bart loves those big, thick windowsills--he watches the street all day.

Our refrigerator! For the first time in my life I'm learning how to use ice cube trays. I know, silver spoon. Those jars are filled with flour, rice, coffee, tea...I love them. Yes, Jenn, that's you and me on the fridge :) And, yes, that painting on the fridge is a watercolor that I did. In March. Don't laugh, it was my first one.

Our kitchen! Not very clean when I took this picture. Please pardon the Griddler still on top of the microwave from dinner; that's not where it belongs. And that's Bartleby wandering around. The black thing on our wall is chalkboard that we write to each other on. I wish the color came out better, because that little table on the right is so beautiful. We only have one outlet in our whole kitchen, so we had to be creative about what we plug in! No, that's not a door at the end of the kitchen. There was a huge housing shortage after WWII, and a lot of the apartments in Chicago at that time were cut in half and made in to two apartments. That's our cut-off :)

Our apartment has amazing storage; we have three big closets. This is the one in the foyer, our winter coats, scarves, hats, suitcases, tent, sleeping bags, and both of our bikes fit...almost. That's the back tire of the RoadMaster sticking out just a smidgen. And, of course, I had to be urban-chic and purchase re-usable grocery bags...conveniently located next to the front door.

The 'nook'. That chair on the right is heaven for your behind. Our kitchen table came with six chairs, so you will see them randomnly dispersed throughout the house. A lot of the things that Jason is taking to his classroom at school are piled up over here, so it looks a little cluttered right now. Don't mind the random birdcage that I haven't found a place for, either.

Our two bookshelves! Yes, over 500 books found homes in our living quarters. Hardwood floors...love them! We both agree that that clock reminds us of elementary school.

Another shot of the living room. Jason was working diligently on Teach for America. He's working so hard, I'm so proud of him. I love how the desk faces the window, so there is a really pretty view while working.

This is the view of the living room look out from the kitchen. The lamp makes it look like our ceiling is on fire.

On to the bathroom! I just wanted to show how cool the old tile is, and the old furnaces in every room. This rug is so wonderfuly squishy on freshly-showered toes.

When you sit down to do your business, John Lennon is there to wish you times of peace. Again, the only outlet in the bathroom...sort of oddly placed.

Our sink! Water pressure is an adventure in our little world of communal living.

Full bathroom shot. The light has one of those pull-down-cords, which makes going to the bathroom in a slumbered state at 3am quite an adventure. We have one of those old-school medicine cabinets behind the mirror.

This is the 'welcome piece' in the foyer. Jason and I actually bought it for 2 dollars at a rummage sale, repainted it, and put new hardware on it. You can't see the chipped-paint effect very well. This serves as an awesome storage place for keys, wallets, change jars, and our favorite pictures. The piece on the wall up above says, "hope".

Our beautiful old-school stove! I know it looks dirty in the picture, but I actually just scrubbed it down. That's just how old it is. The numbers on the temperature gauge for the oven were all worn off except for two, so I had to use a sharpie to write them back on :) And if anyone knows who gave us this adorable owl tea pot, we would love to know so we can write them a thank you card! There was no name on it! We would love to thank you, Mystery Gifter!

Edit: We discovered the identity of the Mystery Giver. Maggie Paino, we bestow our highest gratitude for the beautiful owl tea pot. Our lives will never again be the same because of your gift of well-made tea.

Random shot of the side of the refrigerator. You can see our calendar, tickets to the Coldplay concert in November, and our list of the AFI's Top 100 Movies that we are currently watching one by one. The piece of paper bottom right is the AFI's list, and then the rest of that dry erase board is our own list that we are making as we watch each film.

Our couch in the living room! Contrary to what the picture paints, our couch is dark brown and not an awkward purple. We were so happy to get our Beatles posters up! That chest is actually painted to match the vanity in the hall. It's stuffed full of blankets and pillows; and on top is a little tray with coasters and our scrapbooks.

Our front door, where guests are promptly greeted by James Dean and the old gumball machine. It used to be in my Pau-Pau's office at home; and it takes pennies! We have yet to find any gumballs at the store, but I'm on a massive hunt.

Last but not least, another shot of the living room from the foyer. That is a double-door closet on the left that has been very useful.

There you have it, our living quarters. Maybe I will take some better pictures later when it's not 10:30pm, and not on my camera phone. :)

Happy Friday!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

the next chapter

Because I can't figure out how to move these pictures to the bottom of my post, here are some pictures that I borrowed from the wonderful world of the internet to show you of our neighborhood.

This is a view of the street east of ours, but it looks just like ours.
Cubbies fans, eat your heart out. We are only about a ten minute train ride to Wrigley. This is an almost-aerial view of our community, Edgewater.
One of the coffee shops just around the corner
The bike trail that runs right by our apartment
...and right by the beach!
A lot of the houses and apartments in our community are coverd in beautiful ivy.

One of the gorgeous churches on the main street.
This is the Episcopalian church we visited last Sunday. The homily was wonderful, and the church was just beautiful on the inside.
Our main street, Broadway

Ah, hello blogworld, dear old friend. It has been several years since our aquaintance has been frequent, but hopefully the old match will light again.

It has been a few years since I have graced the xanga world with my writing presence, and so much of my life has changed and grown since I was last a frequent composer of words. Once I began my job in youth ministry two and a half years ago, it seemed that sermon outlines and newsletters received all of my writing attention.

Because of this single-minded mission, I'm afraid that my writing may be a little dusty and in need of some moth balls. I remember in high school I could sit down at two in the morning and write a 12-paragraph blog packed with wit and hooks and insight with amazing ease...even though my reading is at the highest it has ever been, the typewriter in my mind needs some new keys and a little grease.

As I was saying, life has changed so drastically in the past four years. Four years ago, I was packing everything I owned in to my Jeep Wranger--the soft-top windows bloated from the excessive amount of clothing and books--and making that ceremonious drive away from home and towards Atlanta. I listened to Rascal Flatt's song "Moving On" on repeat for the first hour of my drive. Then, as the sun began to rise it warmed my melancholy, nostalgic heart and I sang Dixie Chicks at the top of my lungs for the next nine hours (you guessed it, Wide Open Spaces. It's a right-of-passage, give me a break). My heart was so anxious and nervous and excited and unsure of what the future held.

How could I have known that I would leave Atlanta with a healed heart towards my broken past, a friendship with Missy that I could not live without, two years of some of the most hilarious memories, a renewed confidence in myself and in other people, a fresh look at God? I could never have dreamed all that I would learn and see and experience.

And now, four years later, I just unpacked a bloated U-Haul (a little bit bigger than my Wrangler) as a young woman married to the most wonderful, selfless and adventurous man in the world. Four days of unloading boxes, alphabetizing and organizing over 500 books (not an exaggeration; I counted), multiple trips to the dumpster, moving furniture from room to room, hanging Beatles posters and picture frames...and just like that, a new chapter of life has begun. What lessons will be learned, friendships made, experiences treasured...well, that is yet to be revealed. I have never been so excited about a new chapter of my life, because I have never before had the love of my life by my side, hand in hand. He paints the world in so much color and love and renaissance.

On more of a basic note, we love our apartment. We live in a neighborhood called Edgewater; a very diverse community. Our street is lined with old brick apartment buildings, beautiful trees, and is generally pretty quiet (except for the occasional car driving buy blasting Spanish radio, TuPac's greatest hits, or Beyonce). The 18-mile bike trail that runs along Lake Michigan starts on our street, and it takes us approximately 10 minutes to walk from our apartment door to the beach. We have already taken our bikes for a journey along the lake several times, and we haven't required the service of our car since last Tuesday. Loyola University is two blocks north of us, and provides a wonderful resource of bookstores. Down on the corner is a meat market, and just one block west is an awesome grocery store with a delectable produce selection, our bank, a pharmacy, a branch of the local library (one of the first things we did was get our library cards), and the red-line train that runs straight downtown. There are all sorts of coffee shops, Thai food restaurants, Mexican markets, and used bookstores within a four block radius of our apartment that we are anxious to explore.

We live in a one-bedroom apartment on the second story of our 12-floor building. Our living room and kitchen windows face out on to the main street, which bring in the breeze from the lake and a beautiful blanket of natural light. We have all hardwood floors, antique fixtures, and a surprisingly limited amount of outlets. There is an old-fashioned elevator with a gate that allows you to see the walls as you ride up and down, and our landlord is a sweet older woman from (formerly) Yugoslavia. Her name is Patricia, and she starts cooking up all sorts of Slavic dishes starting approximately at 11am. Since our apartment is slightly above hers, we can faintly smell chicken and cabbage in our closests in the early afternoon. It brings a sense of homey-ness, I suppose. As soon as we have access to a camera (mine is out of commission), I will post some pictures of our apartment. Bartleby, our cat, is all settled in and finding all sorts of mischevious things to do and get in to (including dive bombing on to our bed from the windowsill at four in the morning).

Jason's first day of school is September 2nd, and I'm sure I will write more about it in the coming days (since this post is getting a little lengthy). I am in the process of starting online courses in the next couple of weeks, and I have put in my resume at the Boys & Girls Club down the street. They currently only have positions in their finance department, but I thought atleast I would start looking around for some options.

As stated before, this post is getting a little lengthy, and I have no desire to scare off any readers on my debut. There are so many things to write about, but the hours are so many and time will allow things to be told.

For now, happy Thursday! We are sipping our coffee and working on things that require being worked on before heading off to a concert in Garfield Park tonight.

Mercy and peace,