Sunday, February 28, 2010

Señorita Healthy Pantalones Está Aprendiendo

Two days ago, I decided to try to learn the Spanish language.

Iwanski and I have had one of those Rosetta Stone Language CD’s for a little while now, so I finally decided to sit down and see what it’s all about.

I’ll tell you one thing, I am glad that I had two years of Spanish in high school. Otherwise, I’m wondering if I would be completely lost. You see, the Rosetta Stone software works by pretty quickly immersing you in the language. There are pictures and all that good stuff, but to me, it’s still all about basic memorization. And I haven’t had to work hard at memorizing anything for a long time.

I can only imagine how difficult it would be to learn Chinese or Arabic, which don’t even use the same alphabet as English.

Nevertheless, I have persisted for the past couple of days and now I know/remember the basic colors and numbers, as well as certain verbs like cantar (to sing), bailar (to dance), saltar (to jump), and beber (to drink). I also remembered the words perro and gato (dog and cat), and have learned that a bird is a pájaro.

The problem is that these are only a few of the massive number of words that I would have to learn to master the language. If I really want to learn this, I will have to actually work at it. There’s no software that will do that for me. (Damn!)

And to add to that, I keep getting confused between the words “to walk,” “to run,” and “to eat,” and “to fall.” They all start with the letter “c” (caminar, correr, comer, and caer), so I haven’t quite yet figured out the trick to keeping them straight in my head. And to add to that, a horse is “un caballo”—and there’s a surprising number of horses that show up in this software. So if you have the sentence “un caballo esta comiendo,” I have no freakin’ clue if the horse (at least I think it’s a horse) is walking, running, eating, or falling. Now, if you have the sentence “un caballo esta comiendo la zanahoria,” at least I know there’s a carrot involved—because zanahoria (a carrot) is at least one word that starts with something besides a c.

So I guess you can say I’ve got some work to do in the memorization department; it’s just not as easy as I thought it would be.

Hmm, I wonder if you can buy language CD’s that you listen to while you sleep, and somehow you magically learn the language by process of osmosis?

Oh, if only…and if only I weren’t so lazy, I could learn a whole new language!

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Fantastic Week

This past week has been just wonderful for me. Here are just a few of the highlights…

Last Tuesday, I got a package in the mail from my best girlfriend Diane. It was a beautiful gift, a scrapbook of Chicago memories that she had created, from fun times in 2009 that she and I (and Iwanski, and my good friend Jonathan) had experienced together. I could tell that she had worked really hard on it, and it was absolutely amazing and also hilarious. Who could forget about the crazy cat circus that we went to? And how about the “night of ten tequila shots,” when for some reason we thought that it would be a good idea to take one shot of Patron every 20 minutes, “just to keep our buzz going.” That was not the best decision we ever made—but it did make for some funny memories (not to mention hilarious pictures—some of which I hadn’t realized that she had taken). And then there were the little special moments, like the time she and I made a wish and tossed coins into the fountain at Marshall Fields (I know, I know, it’s now Macy’s, but it will always be Marshall Fields to me).

There were so many moments that I had forgotten about, and she compiled them all so beautifully. I was so honored to be given such a gift, and it reminded me of how lucky I am to have such a wonderful friend in Diane…not to mention to have had all of the great experiences that I've had, just in the past year!

I have to be honest; I know this may sound judgmental, but I had always envisioned scrapbooking as some sort of lame craft done by old suburban housewives—but now I realize that I was very wrong about that. If this scrapbook that Diane created is any evidence, then it truly is an art form and can really preserve some beautiful (and funny!) memories.

So that was how my week started.

Then at my weekly one-on-one meeting with my boss, he shared with me that the president of our company told him that she thought that I did a really great job. Rock on!

A couple of days later, Iwanski and I visited the Brookfield Zoo, an excellent zoo in the suburbs of Chicago. I hadn’t been to Brookfield Zoo in at least a couple of years, and Tropic World, one of the largest indoor animal exhibits in the world, is a sight to behold. The best part was watching a couple of gorillas fighting/playing and splashing each other in the exhibit’s pond…and I really can’t believe how loud it is when an adult gorilla beats his chest! I really enjoyed our zoo visit.

Then, in the very same week, we got to enjoy the Shedd Aquarium here in Chicago. This aquarium not only has some of the most amazing fish and water animals, it also has otters, lots of different types of frogs, a couple of very rare Grand Cayman blue iguanas (there are fewer than 30 left in the wild!), and even a few monkeys! But I think that my favorite will always be the sea horses and sea dragons. There’s something about those animals that I find so fascinating. I just think they are so cool-looking.

But my favorite part of this week, hands down, was that Iwanski finally let me read his novel that he’s been working on for the past year. So far I’ve read about half of it, and I am sooo excited! I can absolutely say without any bias that it is definitely a great book so far. I am really into the characters and can’t wait to read on…it’s such a cool story! I am so proud of my hubby, and I hope that it gets published quickly so that you all can read it soon, too!

So there ya’ go—a beautiful gift from my best girlfriend, an awesome compliment from my boss, seeing lots of amazing animals, and reading a wonderful story written by my best friend in the whole world—kick ass!

I am one happy woman.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Train Your Eyes on This

When I got home from work tonight, I noticed that Iwanski was watching a t.v. show that appeared to have train after train after train running down a track.

I went in the bedroom to change out of my work clothes, assuming that he was watching some kind of Western or something.

But then I began to hear things like…

“At Wilmington, Massachusetts, a commuter train approaches with four wooden coaches, occupying the New Hampshire Route main line.”


“What are you watching?” I asked.

“Trains,” he said matter-of-factly. “That’s right, I Tivo’d a show that’s just footage of trains from the 1940’s.”

I stared at him and started laughing.


“Yeah,” he replied. “Really.”

I stood there, watching the t.v. for a few minutes in disbelief.

Sure enough, it was just train after train after train, rolling down the track, interspersed by the most boring commentary I think I have ever heard.

So my husband likes to watch footage of trains from the 1940’s. Do you know ANYONE else who likes to do this?

I cannot think of anything I’d rather watch LESS than footage of trains from the 1940’s.

I’m telling you, I’ve been married to this man for almost 14 years now—and I can honestly say that he just gets weirder and weirder every year.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


When I was growing up in my tiny little hometown of Hilbert, Wisconsin, I never would have dreamed in a million years that I’d end up living in downtown Chicago.

But you know what? I absolutely love it.

I love the public transit, the ethnic restaurants, the many unique neighborhoods, the public parks, the free zoo, the tourists, the locals, and the hustle and bustle in the city streets.

And you know what else I love?

Amusing encounters with random strangers.

Like a couple of weeks ago, when a street musician was playing “Happy Together” on his saxophone. You know, the one that goes.

Imagine me and you, I do
I think about you day and night, it's only right
To think about the girl you love and hold her tight
So happy together

Anyway, Iwanski and I were about to cross the intersection, and I noticed that the guy who was with his wife across the street was singing and grooving to the tune. So I started singing, too, and as the light turned green and we crossed the street, Iwanski and I, and the guy and his wife, all sang loudly in unison, “So happy together!”

I love moments like that.

And then there was the incident yesterday, when Iwanski and I, having just purchased cups of coffee from 7-Eleven, walked outside and saw a woman slip and fall on a big patch of ice.

Iwanski immediately sprung into action and went over to help her, cup of coffee in hand—except that he stepped onto another patch of ice right near her. So of course, he started slipping, too, and did a couple of those huge swinging motions with his arms to try to catch himself. Luckily, he caught himself just in the nick of time—but it was totally hilarious-looking. I started cracking up. I think even the woman who had fallen was laughing, as she stood up and brushed herself off. Then, a guy who was passing by and had witnessed the whole thing said to Iwanski, “That was almost awesome.”

That was almost awesome. Hilarious! I couldn’t stop laughing.

People just amuse me.

Of course, there are times when encounters with random strangers don’t go as well—usually when I have a blonde moment and say something stupid.

Like yesterday, when we saw a guy in a wheelchair cursing because he had just missed his train.

Trying to be nice and sympathetic, I said, “I know what you mean, we just missed our bus, too. I feel your pain.”

Yes, that’s right. I told a guy in a wheelchair that I felt his pain. D’oh! Luckily, he had already moved away from me, so I’m not sure that he had even heard what I’d said.

Let’s hope not.

But overall, encounters with random strangers are quite enjoyable. I especially love it when tourists ask me directions or where to get on the train. Often, I am walking that way, anyway, so I just walk with them to show them the way. They are always very grateful, and I enjoy finding out about where they are from and why they are in Chicago.

I think my favorite walk (so far) was with a guy from Dublin, Ireland. He had a relatively thick brogue, so I only understood about half of what he said, but it was fun to listen to him, all the same.

I am so grateful to be living in a city that attracts tourists from near and far.

Encounters with random strangers—yet one more reason that I love living here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Friday Haiku

Work has been busy
I am so glad it’s Friday
Time to chill out now!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Could Never Live Like That...Or Could I?

The other day at work, I went down to the 5th floor cafeteria for lunch, sat down at my favorite corner spot, and reached in my bag for the book I’m currently reading…only I forgot my book at my desk upstairs. Damn!

Then I noticed that someone had left two National Geographic magazines on the table right in front of me. Score!

I hadn’t looked at a National Geographic magazine probably since I was a kid (I think my Dad used to subscribe to it), and I remember my 12-year-old self thinking that it was not an interesting magazine (at that age, I was much more interested in learning about boys than in learning about science). Nevertheless, I needed something to read, so I opened the issue from December ‘09 and began flipping through the pages. An article entitled “Are We Alone?” about the possibility of life on other planets grabbed my interest for a few minutes.

Then I turned to an article about a 21-century hunter-gatherer tribe in northern Tanzania…and I was instantly hooked.

The author of the article (Michael Finkel) spent two weeks in Tanzania among the Hadza tribe, a band of people who have never moved on from the hunting/gathering stage of human existence. The men hunt and the women gather. The men hunt for almost any animal that they can eat, including warthogs, zebras, giraffes, and baboons, while the women gather berries, fruit, and edible tubers.

The first thing that really fascinated me about the Hadza is that, according to the author, “They enjoy an extraordinary amount of leisure time. Anthropologists have estimated that they “work”—actively pursue food—four to six hours a day.”

Four to six hours a day of work, with the rest of the day being spent in leisure? I think I could handle that!

Then there is the fact that the Hadza have no real awareness of the “outside,” modern world. When the author asked the leader of the tribe “what he knew about America—the name of the president, the capital city…he said he knew nothing. He could not name the leader of his own country.”

The author continued, “I asked him, as politely as possible, if he knew anything about any country. He paused for a moment, evidently deep in thought, then suddenly shouted ‘London!’ He couldn’t say precisely what London was. He just knew it was someplace not in the bush.”

Wow! Can you imagine not knowing anything about the world around you, other than what’s in your immediate area? Okay, admittedly, there are many people (including myself) with limited knowledge of many places around the world…but at least we know that these places exist! And we certainly are oversaturated with knowledge of pop culture, aren’t we? I wonder if the Hadza have ever seen a television set—or even know what one is. (I highly doubt it.)

And then there is the fact that, according to repeated statements by the leader of the tribe, the Hadza do not worry about anything. Ever. Isn’t that amazing? As the author pointed out, “It was a mind-set that astounded me, for the Hadza, to my way of thinking, had very legitimate worries. Will I eat tomorrow? Will something eat me tomorrow? Yet they live a remarkably present-tense existence.”

Wow. That one really gave me some food for thought. I probably worry at least a little bit every single day of my life. What would my life be like without worry? I can’t even imagine it…but it sounds beautiful and amazing.

So I started to wonder, could I ever live like that? Could I be a hunter/gatherer? It seems like such a peaceful existence, away from all the worries of the modern world…

But then I got to the part of the article where the author discusses the risks inherent in living as the Hadza do, and I quickly realized there would be no way I could handle that kind of life. The author’s description says it best:

“But I could never live like the Hadza. Their entire life, it appears to me, is one insanely committed camping trip. It’s incredibly risky. Medical help is far away. One bad fall from a tree, one bite from a black mamba snake, one lunge from a lion, and you’re dead. Women give birth in the bush, squatting. About a fifth of all babies die within their first year, and nearly half of all children do not make it to age 15. They have to cope with extreme heat and frequent thirst and swarming tsetse flies and malaria-laced mosquitos.”

Women give birth in the bush, squatting? No thank you! That alone is enough to make me not want to live that kind of life. If I am fortunate enough to give birth to a child someday, I want them to pump me full of drugs so I don’t feel a thing.

Yes, I am a woman of the modern world. I like my comfy couch and my hairdryer and my froo-froo olive oil & vinegar and my packaged, pre-washed spinach. I could not live without my asthma inhaler and my allergy medicine.

I like to “hunt” for bargains at Walgreen’s and “gather” fruits and veggies in my shopping basket at the French Market here in downtown Chicago.

I guess in that way, you could say I’m a modern hunter-gatherer.

Or you could just say I’m a wuss. And I’m okay with that.

*To read the entire article about the Hadza people (which I highly recommend; it’s an amazing article), click on this link.