"happiness can be found - even in the darkest of times - if only one remembers to turn on the light."
-albus dumbledore.

Friday, February 11, 2011

#19 - Southern Utah

Well, here we are again. It's Friday and I've posted a grand total of two blogs. So much for getting back on track. In my defense, I've been really busy this week - I had a paper due yesterday on Friedrich Nietzsche, and I only understand about half of what Nietzsche writes. So that was fun. I'm also teaching a GRE class for Kaplan, which takes up a lot of time. I know, I know. No excuses - play like a champion. In order to make up for my slackery, I'm posting TWICE today. Can you contain your excitement?

Today I signed up to take the Praxis Exam, a test I need to take (and pass) in order to get my teacher's certificate. I'm taking it on March 12th, which happens to be the first Saturday of my spring break. I'm also taking ANOTHER teacher's exam the following Saturday - the last Saturday of spring break. This, obviously, is kind of a bummer. Luckily for me, I've planned for the most relaxing spring break possible.

My boyfriend is spending the week teaching a writing workshop at Utah Valley University's Field Station in Capitol Reef National Park. I'm tagging along for a week of camping, hiking, and now, it seems, studying. I couldn't be more excited. The field station is nestled within the National Park, about an hour North of the Arizona/Utah border. It really is some of the most beautiful country I've ever seen.

Over Christmas break we drove from Salt Lake City down to Tucson, a long but beautiful drive. We spent some time hiking in Zion National Park (southeast of Capitol Reef) and I absolutely fell in love. The landscape is even more beautiful than what I'm used to here in Arizona. It's full of canyons and mountains, but the plant and animal life seems much more vibrant. I can't wait to explore Capitol Reef. Studying for these tests will not be fun - but I can't really think of a better place to be studying!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

#18 - Riding through Tucson

Every morning Monday through Thursday I ride my bike from my boyfriend's house in South Tucson to campus - about a 3 mile ride. The ride to campus is mostly uphill, which isn't any fun, but the ride home is downhill, and absolutely lovely. It begins more or less on University Avenue, a street that can be found in some form on every college campus. There's a American Apparel, and an Urban Outfitters, and a Chipolte, and, at any given time, about one hundred sorority girls. It can be a little overwhelming.

From University, I turn onto Fourth Avenue, a street with an entirely different personality. Fourth Avenue is a college hipsters paradise, a long, sloping road lined with bars, restaurants of every imaginable ethnicity, tattoo parlors and smoke shops. The late afternoon/early evening hours when I ride home are ripe for hipster-spotting. They tend to congregate in two areas - one group smoking American Spirits and drinking fair trade coffee at Epic Cafe, and the other smoking American Spirits and drinking hemp beer at Sky Bar. In both cases, they make the landscape much more entertaining.

My favorite part of the ride, however, is on Fourth Avenue south of Congress Street, and the entrance to South Tucson. South Tucson has an entirely unique flavor. The majority of the people living in South Tucson have been in the Tucson are since before Arizona was Arizona. They are Hispanic, or Indian, or some combination of the two, and although in other cities this might mean a slightly-less favorable neighborhood, South Tucson is my favorite part of the city.

Part of the charm, undoubtedly, stems from the dogs.

The first time I went to my boyfriend's house in South Tucson, a chihuahua ran out in front of my car about three blocks from his (my boyfriend's) house. It wasn't wearing a collar, and seemed perfectly happy dashing down a side street after I swerved around it. I thought it seemed strange to see a stray chihuahua - and not a mutt, for example - but my boyfriend was completely unperturbed. There are stray dogs throughout South Tucson, he explained, and they usually roam in packs of two or three. Later that night we saw what I assumed was the same chihuahua trotting down the street with - I swear to God - a Shih Tzu. Or at least something that looked like a Shih Tzu. Ever since then, I've kept an eye out for the Dogs of South Tucson. This morning, on my way to school, a chihuahua chased me for no fewer than five blocks, seemingly for the pure joy of running. It made me laugh - a great way to start the day.

Monday, February 7, 2011

#17 - New Beginnings

It's been almost 3 months since I updated this blog. Pathetic, I know. I really don't have an excuse. Yes, I've been busy, and yes, the holidays were distracting, but - as my father has told me numerous times - it only takes a minute or two to write a new post. So, dear readers, I apologize. I'm sure you have all been dying of boredom without The Happy Project. I promise to get back on track.

I can make that promise because today is a Monday, and Mondays are for starting over. Anytime I start a new regime - eating healthier, working out, doing all my homework, updating my silly blog - I find myself waiting for Mondays. I don't really know why I do this. It isn't really any easier to go to the gym every day for a week starting on Monday than it is starting on Wednesday. Sometimes it's more difficult, because really, who likes Mondays? And yet here I am, resolving to update this blog every day starting today - Monday. It's a new week, a fresh start, and that's comforting to me.

This semester is my last as an undergraduate. In June I am (most likely) moving to Phoenix to start my work with Teach for America. It will be one hell of a transition. For the first time in my life, I'll have a full-time job and won't be taking classes. I'm used to living far from my parents and siblings, but I'll be leaving the friends who have become family over the last three years. I'll be moving away from a man I've fallen very deeply in love with, a man I'm anticipating having very little time to visit. I'll be living and working in a city I don't know and don't even really particularly like. I'll be a real live adult. It's a daunting prospect, and honestly I'm terrified.

But, at the same time, the thought of a new beginning - the chance to reevaluate who I am and what I want - is thrilling. I have a life in Tucson, and I will miss it more than I can say. But moving to Phoenix will give me the opportunity to start a new chapter in my life, a chapter in which our heroine sets out on her own to conquer the Big City and change the lives of her students. I don't know what moving to Phoenix will mean for my career, relationship, or sanity. But I have faith in things unseen, and in myself. I know I can handle it.

As long as school starts on a Monday.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

#16 - Getting Good News!

Yesterday, November 9th, I was invited to join the 2011 Teach For America corps in Phoenix, Arizona. It was one of the most exciting things that's happened to me in a long time. I've spent the couple of weeks neck deep in grad school applications, and honestly, I'd almost forgotten about TFA. As soon as I got the acceptance email, that changed. I've been thinking non-stop about how great this experience is going to be. It's going to be difficult - I am under no illusions about that. But I also think it's going to be a really rewarding experience. I'm very, very excited.

The great thing about getting news like this is that it makes your whole day better. Almost immediately after I found out, I went to a meeting with a professor of mine who is writing me recommendations for grad school (which I am keeping as an option on the back burner). He is a brilliant man, but cranky as hell, and I knew as soon as I handed him the list of recommendations that he would refuse to complete the ones that are online. He asked me to switch all of those to paper recs, which I can do, but will be a GIANT pain in the ass. But I was so happy about getting into TFA - so high on the thrill of being wanted - that I didn't even care. It's been like that ever since. I'm really happy, and the world looks a little bit brighter.

Friday, November 5, 2010

#15 - Leftover Halloween Candy

As I type these words, I'm thinking about the big bowl of candy sitting on my kitchen table. My roommate's boyfriend - who is a real adult, and lives in a real house, and so had trick-or-treaters come by - had extra candy after Halloween last Sunday, and brought it over.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays for two reasons: 1) I love watching kids getting dressed up to go trick-or-treating; and 2) I. Love. Candy. Especially "fun size" candy, the kind people give out on Halloween.

Fun size candy is made for people like myself, who love to eat but are terrified of reverting back to their fat-kid days. If I buy a normal-sized piece of candy, I'll eat the entire thing. I have absolutely no self control when it comes to candy. Fun-sized candy provides a tidy alternative. Eating one fun-sized candy sates my appetite for delicious sugary goodness, but won't turn me into a whale.

The bowl of candy the roommate's boyfriend brought over has fun-sized Skittles, Milky Ways, and Reeses. All solid Halloween choices: Skittles for the people who don't like chocolate, and Reeses for the people who don't like Milky Way (although who doesn't like Milk Ways??). My personal favorite is Snickers, but there are none of those in the house. It's a good thing, too - I'm going home in a few weeks, and I need to look fantastic!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

#14 - Family reunions.

I'm currently sitting in front of the TV watching the rescue of the Chilean miners, and I'm on the verge of tears. Watching these men come back to the surface to be reunited with their families is so inspiring. The first man who came up was greeted by his wife and son. The son burst into tears the second he saw his father. It was absolutely the sweetest thing I've ever seen. Watching family reunions such as these always tugs at my heartstrings. The video compilation of returning soldiers that's been circulating lately has a similar effect. There's nothing in the world more important than family, and things like this prove it. Totally inspiring.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

#13 - Baking!

I am, by nature, an anxious person. Most of the time, that anxiety is manifested in stress over schoolwork, or, more recently, in applying to grad school. Over the years, I've learned how to turn my anxiety into energy, forcing my self to work instead of panicking. That hasn't been working too well lately. The other day, I was on the phone with my father, asking his advice about my Teach for America interview, and something he said sent me into a full blown panic attack. If you've never had one of these delightful experiences, consider yourself lucky. Sitting in the kitchen, talking to my father, I was convinced I was going to die. My throat constricted, my heart started beating unusually fast, and I felt like someone was stacking bricks on my spinal cord. Not fun.

My panic attacks are short-lived (usually less than a minute long), but they happen with alarming frequency. I've tried just about every possible method for making my crazy go away, but so far, only one thing has worked (at least, in a preventative sense): baking. My father is an amazing cook, and my grandmother and sister are both really great bakers, but among my family members, I am notoriously lacking in the kitchen.

Up until this year, that is. Baking has become a major hobby of mine lately, mostly because when I bake, I don't think about anything else. I find a strange comfort in the clinical directives of recipes, in the knowledge that a few simple ingredients can make really delicious food. I've taken to baking when I'm emotionally overwhelmed, and that emotion is sometimes translated into really delicious mistakes. A few weeks ago I made Carmel Apple cupcakes following a grad school-induced panic attack, and, hands shaking, poured way too much nutmeg into the mix. I didn't want to start over, so I went online to try to figure out what would temper the taste of nutmeg. The answer? Mace, of all things. So I put mace in the cupcakes and hoped that they wouldn't taste awful. And you know what? They didn't. They were delicious.

This morning I made Sour Cream Blueberry Muffins. I wasn't exactly stressed at the time, but I anticipated that I would be later today. The recipe was adapted from the Sour Cream Raspberry Cupcakes on my favorite cupcake website. I used almond extract instead of vanilla, and used a little less sugar and a little more flour to make them more muffin-y. They were delicious. Maybe even better than my Dad's. And that's definitely Something To Be Happy About.