Kittem!
Meet Sid, our new friend from Iowa City. She’s pretty spazzy, but we like her a lot.

We’re home from our Top Secret Weekend Adventure less a bunch of money spent on amazing food, a terrific bed and breakfast, some Christmas shopping, and a new kittem. Iowa City (my top secret destination of choice) was fantastic, and I’ll post more tomorrow. For right now, I’m busy keeping up with our new friend, who has razor claws and insists on spazzing out at somewhat constant intervals.

When I signed up for this NaBloPoMo thing, I think I forgot that we’d be on holiday for part of it. Whoops. Weekend is lovely, I have a new second-hand winter coat, and we spent the afternoon at the art museum. Tonight we’re going for tapas, and I’m not sure what after that. It’s chilly here, but lovely, and SB asked why we don’t live here instead of Champaign. I think that’s a good sign.

secret!

ShaneB and I are leaving town in a few minutes for a Top Secret Weekend Adventure. I can’t say where we’re going, but I’m hoping we have a lot of fun, a lot of good food, and a lot of down time. We’re not taking work with us. I’m really excited.

In other good news, I got my cast off! I can type with two hands! Now THAT is something to celebrate. 🙂

It is no secret that I’ve had a hard semester. I was initially signed up for four classes, but I dropped two within the first month of school, shortly after I took my full time job. The two remaining classes represent the last four credits needed towards my masters, and the first of two required courses towards my PhD. Saying that I’m struggling in these courses is an understatement. Saying that I hate my courses wouldn’t be an exaggeration. With a few weeks left in the semester, I’m trying to pull my stuff together to finish up two courses and NOT drop out of grad school. I am so burnt out and discouraged right now – and I hate it.

A year ago I was so excited about the possibility of continuing on in grad school – and now the PhD program seems like something to which I’ve shackled myself. I love my job, but right now things are very stressful, and having to come home and keep working makes getting up in the morning and doing good work even more difficult. The easy solution, of course, would be to drop out. The better solution, I think, is to keep going, get through the rest of this semester, and then take it easy for a semester or two until things calm down at work – while taking courses that will keep my options open even if I don’t decide to follow this path through to the end.

Before I started grad school, I had a conversation with my mom’s best friend from high school – now a post-doc at the JFK School of Government at Harvard. She shared with me a number of impressions of why people pursue degrees in higher education – beyond the stock “to get ahead in their field” sort of answer. She said she thought a lot of people did it to prove something, to assuage feelings of inadequacy, or to do both by accomplishing something they never thought possible. She said she pursued her PhD for some of the above – and to be better equipped to do her part at “saving the world”. I don’t know if I really know why I’m doing this – besides the feeling that I’m not done growing in this area.

Last week, following a particularly awful day of class and work, I had a crying fit after burning the pancakes I was making for breakfast. It was yet another “you’re a big screw up” message in a long week of the same, and it was just too much. I told SB, between sobs, that I just want to help people, and that I didn’t understand why it had to be so hard. Is pursuing a PhD going to help me with this goal? I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out.

this post is about umbrellas

I was walking to the bus stop in the drizzling rain just now and passed a young couple holding hands and sharing an umbrella, which made me smile. One day last year I was standing at the corner, coffee in hand, waiting for the light to change so I could continue on to school. A man came up next to me and sheltered me under his umbrella, and we walked several blocks together until our trips diverged. I don’t think he ever asked if I needed shelter, nor did he introduce himself. While strictly chivalrous, this gesture seemed also erotic – as did the glimpses of shoes and bare legs peeking out underneath umbrellas which concealed their owners faces.

A couple of years ago, not long after moving here, I posted a list of my favorite restaurants in my new hometown. Since then, I’ve gone on a few dates, tried a few new places, and even worked at one restaurant. After three years in town, here are my favorites:

Favorite place for breakfast: Sam’s Cafe, 115 N Walnut St, Champaign (french toast, grits, AND bacon)
Favorite place for lunch in Campustown: Noodles, 528 E Green St, Champaign (I’m hooked on the spicy peanut salad)
Favorite local neighborhood bar: Bentley’s, 419 N Neil St, Champaign (Beth’s Bloody Marys are the best)
Favorite bakery: Mirabelle, 124 W Main St, Urbana (the line’s been out the door the last few times we’ve been)
Favorite place for sushi: Kamakura, 715 S Neil St, Champaign (good and not terribly expensive)
Favorite place for Thai: Thara Thai, 912 1/2 W Bloomington Rd, Champaign (pineapple pad thai)
Favorite place for Mexican: Real Hacienda, 912 W Bloomington Rd, Champaign (cheap margaritas)
Favorite place for lunch in my neighborhood: Cafe Kopi, 109 N Walnut St, Champaign (great coffee and tuna salad salads)
Favorite coffeeshop: Cafe Paradiso, 801 S Lincoln Ave, Urbana (soup from scratch every day, great sandwiches, excellent coffee)
Favorite place for a first date: Crane Alley, 115 W Main St, Urbana (as long as you’re not by the foosball table)
Favorite place for a beer after work: Mike & Molly’s, 105 N Market St, Champaign (great beer and people will leave you alone if that’s what you want)
Favorite place for brunch on the weekend: Courier Cafe, 111 N Race St, Urbana (everything’s good)
Favorite place for cheap beer and bar food: Esquire, 106 N Walnut St, Champaign (mmm pitchers and fries)
Favorite place for a special occasion: Bacaro, 113 N Walnut St, Champaign (seasonal menus and streetside seating in the summer)

What’s your vote?

good things

1. dogs and cats becoming friends
2. my grandma’s mashed potatoes
3. a long weekend away just a few days up ahead
4. holiday cooking shows
5. naps

Dinner last night was wonderful – just what I hoped for. Erin, Benj, and their pup surprised just about everyone by coming up for the night, so we had a living room full of happy friends, laughter, and wonderful food. Basil and Hazel were mutually distressed and curious, but eventually calmed down and smelled each other quite nicely. We had candy pie for Kim’s upcoming birthday, and sleepy breakfast at Pekara before Erin and Benj left this morning.

Thanksgiving dinner with friends has been tradition for me since my first apartment – Eva, Erin, and I made dinner for friends and coworkers from the bookstore in 1999 in the E Haus. We only had one oven rack, so we had to farm out dishes to neighboring ovens. Our kitchen table only seated four, so we sat on the couch and the floor, eating off paper plates. There have been intimate dinners with lots of wine a chess games, dinners predicated by trips to the emergency room, dinners with five pies, and dinners with emergencies.

I moved to Champaign three years ago – the first time I’ve lived away from my family for more than a few months. In those three years, my family of friends has become extremely important to me, and I’m so grateful to have had a large portion of that family with me last night.

We’re prepping a Thanksgiving dinner for a group of friends, and that’s led to a number of conversations about weird things our families do. What special Thanksgiving traditions do you and your family observe?