Headed to California…

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How many songs to do you know that have something to do with running off to California?? As I write a multitude of songs run through my head. Pink, Sara Bareillis, Jo Dee Messina… the list goes on and on. Just for kicks and giggles, I Googled “songs about California” and I must say, I was surprised at how many showed up on a list on wikipedia. So many songs singing about the ups and downs of that state. Listening to any one of them makes me wish I could take a vacation.

Something about a steady, predictable weather pattern is vastly appealing right now. In my small corner of the world it has flip-flopped from freezing temperatures to balmy breezes from one day to the next. Some may call it global warming. Others call it Kentucky.

Even without the unpredictable weather,  I am so ready to pack a suitcase and be off. Don’t get me wrong, I love all that I’ve gotten myself into, but sometimes enough is enough. It has been years since my last vacation – and I’m taking a real vacation here- not a working trip or a visit to friends and family – as much as I love those trips. Yet, I have to imagine a real vacation being more about relaxing and unwinding than worrying about being somewhere on a deadline or dividing my time between wanting to see everyone in a short span of time.

I was being interviewed for a class project once and although I do not remember the specific question, the topic of vacations came up. At the time I said I could never be happy on a vacation where I had nothing to do. I told my classmate that I would get to antsy and not be able to relax. That was back in January. Four months later I’m saying “bring on the lounge chair.”

Graduation is my first priority right now. I’ve still got a bit of work to do and I have  decided to plan a great vacation for my post-graduation celebration. I have not decided where I want to go or what I want to do, but I am almost positive the highlight of my time will be doing nothing. It may be a year away but already I’m selecting a playlist of vacation tunes and the Beach Boys are high on my list. 

The Big Questions for the Big ’23’

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My birthday is coming soon. I’ll be 23 and while that should be an exciting time full of celebration and happy wishes for the year to come, I find myself looking forward to it with much more dread than excitement.

Before this new health care reform passed, my insurance cut dependents off at several ages, depending on if he or she is a full-time student or not. Turning 23 marked the end of coverage no matter your status. But after the health bill passed, that all changed – or did it??

I have a friend with the same insurance company. She turned 23 and graduated all in the same week. She noticed she had no insurance when she received a bill from the doctor’s office. What a great graduation/birthday present, right?

I brought this to my parents’ attention and my mom, while on the phone with the insurance company, asked about the new policy. Surprisingly, even the person on the other end had no idea if I, or my older brother who is 24, would still qualify for insurance coverage.

Tomorrow I go to the doctor for an injured ankle. On Thursday, I turn 23. If I still have insurance coverage, this timeline will not pose a problem, but let’s just say that I don’t qualify. If I am prescribed physical therapy, I am up the creek and the paddles were left 10 miles back on the shore.

I have all my fingers and all the toes I can comfortably move crossed. I may still be covered. I looked at the website for my insurance company and was referred to another webpage that wasn’t remotely helpful. If I do go by what the website said I should have coverage until I turn 26 – another three years for me to get a job that either has insurance or where I make enough to pay for my own.

While this brings me some small comfort, I cannot help but resent the fact that my birthday is not going to be a happy day for me. It’s going to be a day full 0f worry and stress about the rest of my college career and the immediate future of being uninsured.

Some people were unhappy about the new health bill, but if it truly covers all the people it says it does, I for one, am grateful for it. Wish me luck!

Road Rage Uncensored

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It’s 5:20 PM on a Tuesday and I find myself standing in the middle of a busy road and praying that no one hits me. If I had a list of top ten places I never want to be again this would make it somewhere around 7.

But, how’d you end up there? Why would you do something so crazy as to stand in the middle of the road in rush hour traffic you ask? Let me go back a bit.

I've given up parking in the garage. It's always full and I don't have time to circle.

Parking at UofL stinks around 11 AM. I have long since given up parking in the Floyd garage, although that was the whole reason I coughed up the $126 to buy a green parking pass. Instead, I park in a lot that is a bit of a walk away from my first class, but close enough to my last class of the day. 

Normally, this would be ideal. I don’t mind a bit of a walk. But recently, construction in the area has made what should be a five minute stroll into a hellish 15 minute nightmare.

To get to the lot students must walk – let’s estimate about a block – in the wrong direction (as in away from the lot) then cross the street. So now students are walking an extra two blocks and are on the wrong side of the street. Great start.

Most times, there is a crossing guard to help students cross the busy roads, but not during rush hour!

Now, once we get past all the yellow tape and orange cones that warn unassuming pedestrians of the catastrophe that was once a sidewalk, we must cross the street. No problem. Sometimes there is even a handy-dandy crossing guard.

But  not during rush hour.

So, my question is this: why on earth would the crossing guard, who sits in the car during the slowest parts of the day to stop traffic for students leave when needed most??

I am not a brave person. I will walk out of my way to find a cross walk and wait for the traffic light, even if the street is empty. So, imagine my peril when not only is there no cross walk to speak of, but traffic is constant and the crossing guard I was counting on is not there.

I wanted to cry. Instead, I waited until one side of the street was empty – thank goodness for traffic lights even if they are a block away. I walked purposefully into the middle of the road and stopped.

Holy cow!

I kept looking over my shoulder waiting for some inattentive driver to slam right into me. Traffic in the final two lanes I had to cross just kept going on as if I wasn’t there. Wonderful. So much for pedestrian right of way. I half expected the TARC driver to let me cross, since surely he or she must be used to students having to cross the street at this location. Nope. Thankfully, the car behind the TARC stopped and waved me across, and just in time.

The lane I had been standing in was suddenly in full swing again. I still shudder when I think of it. I would like nothing more than to avoid that parking lot for the rest of the time it takes the workers to get the sidewalks straightened out, but unfortunately for me, this isn’t going to happen.

The next best thing would be for a crossing guard to stick around and make sure no students get hit by the cars racing through the area. Let’s put it this way – I’m not holding my breath, but I will be writing to public safety.

I’m not keen on breaking any bones in the foreseeable future. Any suggestions?

Learning to Budget – misadventures in money management pt. 1

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I am a college student. Simple. So, it seems almost redundant to say that I am also broke about 99.9% of the time.

I was lucky enough to qualify for financial aid and have held a part-time job, but I never seem to have that extra $10 – $15 lying around.

With gas prices rising at about the same speed my bank account is dwindling, I decided it is time for a change.

My first step: cooking instead of buying out. I hear from fellow students that it has the potential to save some money, so why not? I splurged and bought a student-friendly cookbook for a whopping $7 at a used book store. After all, if I’m going to cook to save money, what better than a book that gives me recipes for food that is quick and inexpensive??

One of the first recipes I tried was Mac and Cheese. Doesn’t sound too difficult, right? Well, turns out this isn’t just your ordinary Velveeta-type dish. Still, I was in the spirit of the moment at the grocery store with my list as I hunted down three cheeses (one of which I still can’t pronounce) to whip up this classic comfort food.

Note to self: cheese is kinda expensive.

I waited a few days before buckling down and trying my hand at this dish, but eventually my enthusiasm got the best of me.

I put the liquids on to boil and started grating the cheese. I had my i-pod on, and life is great.

Until that is, I realize I completely forgot about the pot boiling on the stove as my brother yells, “What is that?!?”

WHOOSH! Suddenly the pot is foaming over and for a second all I can do is stare. I shriek and throw down the hunk of cheddar I was cheerfully grating and rush to rescue the all-important sauce.

Luckilly, I was mostly in time although our new drip-pans on the stove might not agree.

After that it all got better. Even I can boil noodles and stir.

Impatient to see the results of my first time making homemade Mac and Cheese, I sprinkled the un-pronouncable cheese on top of the saucy noodles and stuck the whole thing under the broiler just long enough to say that I did.

It was beautiful. It might have smelled like someone’s dirty gym-shoes, but it was something I made that did not end up burnt or too watery. I wish I would have taken a picture, but I was too dazzled to think of it.

Four days later it’s time to throw out the leftovers. Turns out only one person in my family really enjoys blue-cheese and wow! does that flavor trump the rest.

Even though it wasn’t what I expected and no one ate it, I learned a few valuable lessons from this misadventure.

Next time, use Velveeta. It’s cheaper and people actually like it. I don’t know why but for some odd reason stinky cheese tends to turn people away.

Finally, always have someone prepared to react in an over-the-top way standing by to warn you forget about boiling liquids, especially if you’re singing along to some wacky song.

Until next time…

My Day in Frankfort

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Capitol building in Frankfort KY

I traveled to Frankfort recently to meet with the legislators who represent Kentucky. For those of us who’s lives are not steeped in politics and the logistics thereof, let me remind you that the “short session” is ongoing as I write.

What this means is that legislators meet at the capital in Frankfort, KY for a shortened amount of time and try to jam-pack just as much legislative action in as during a normal session.

Before going to Frankfort I had only a vague idea of what this means. On February 16, the picture cleared like the sky after a rainstorm.  I have never seen so much going on in one place, and despite myself, I am impressed.

Lobbying, I have come to believe, is a fierce sport. Organizations from all over the Commonwealth of Kentucky have what are known as “lobby days.” During these days groups will travel to the capital to meet with legislators and explain issues related to bills they want passed.

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth in Frankfort for Immigrant Rights Lobby Day

On Tuesday the Boy Scouts of America, The Kentucky Humane Society and the American Lung Association all attended to lobby their legislators. From what I have heard, it was utter chaos, but still a successful day.

My own experience the next day did nothing to revise my opinion. While in Frankfort I saw groups from an alternative academy, a band, a choir, the League of Women Voters, the talented and gifted program from a school in Kentucky… the list goes on. This, keep in mind, is all on one day and in addition to the lobbyists who are at the capitol fighting for their causes every single day.

The cafeteria was packed and the legislators barely had time to meet between committee  meetings and appointments with constituents. We did manage to meet with several legislators. I admit to being intimidated by the prospect of speaking to the legislators about anything more than how to spell my name, but they were all very laid back, very kind and I could tell they knew and cared a lot about the issues facing our Commonwealth.

It amazed me that no matter what, no one ever stopped working. In the hallways, in the cafeteria and even walking from the annex to the capitol across the street – legislators and lobbyists alike are always on the go and always on their game.

The stairs leading to the gallery in the Kentucky Capitol building. A popular place to take pictures.

It was an interesting day and I learned quite a bit. It was a lot to take in on my very first day at the capital, but the next time I go I’ll be prepared and ready with my game face.

Fair Weather Fan

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After a long bout of icy temperatures and treacherous roads, I for one am ready for spring.
Snowy Winter Day

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I will admit to having missed groundhog day, only remembering the holiday exists the day after. Normally, I would be waiting with baited breath to find out how much longer the weather is going to freeze my fingers and ears. How much longer would it be until my car is, once again, fully functional?
Well, if the weather over the past few days is anything to go by, not much longer at all.

The sun is barely breaking through the clouds today, sadly it doesn't look as poetic as this picture.

Kentucky weather has never been something I fully understand. One day it’s 17 degrees and the next it’s 52. The day after it drops, yet again, to something resembling the Antarctic. But over the last week the temperatures have climbed steadily into the 50s. I am not complaining. Today, there is a high in the 70s and I imagine myself standing outside basking in the sun. Or, I would if the clouds ever go away.
There was once a time when I would not step outside my house without a heavy coat, hat and gloves if the temperature dropped below 40 degrees. After living here for nearly six years I have traded the heavy winter artillery for a light jacket.
I find it interesting and wonderful and already look forward to living somewhere where the temperature never rises above 80 or drops below 60.

Sunshine and blue skys all year round - something I could definitely live with.

Jammin’ in the ‘Ville – Winter Jam 2011

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I’m driving home listening to the radio and I hear an announcement for a concert starting in just a few hours. “What?!? That’s tonight?!?!” I yell to my stereo. Of course, the announcer didn’t hear me, so he continued to exclaim about the tickets (only $10 at the door, he shouts) and to re-list all the bands featured at the event.

Chris Sligh, Chris August, Red, New Song… the list goes on and on. So many great bands in one place. What was I to do?? Now, if you’re like my younger brother you’re scratching your head and going “who are these people? I’ve never heard of them before.”

New Song at Winter Jam 2011 in Louisville

I suppose I should explain a few things. These bands are amazing – if you like Christian music. I listen to just about everything.  I love music and a concert for $10 is just too much for me to pass up, especially when I had no other plans for the night.

The concert took place at Freedom Hall. Officially the show started at 7:30, but the place was rocking as soon as we walked in. That would be the pre-jam party, that I didn’t know about. It was nice. Chris Sligh was performing as we came in, then Chris August did a few numbers.

The tour made its 17th stop in Louisville. They will make a total of 43 (or 42??) stops before the end of the tour. The cool thing is that a friend of mine saw the show in Jacksonville, which I did not know until I was uploading photos on Facebook.

My favorite song, I must admit, was Candy Wrap. According to Chris August that is “such an embarrassing song,” but I loved it and laughed the whole time at the sheer silliness of it. It reminded me of being a five year-old and the best thing you could possibly have is candy for as far as you can see.

Fire effects during Red's performance. Amazing!

Red is a new favorite of mine as of tonight as well.  This band shows off the rock side of Christian music. I couldn’t get enough and this was before they lit up the stage with a fantastic display of pyrotechnics. Picture me scrambling for my camera in the dark and pushing the shutter button desperately to catch as much as I could of the band and their set. It presents an amusing picture.

New Song is another band I heard of tonight. I asked my sister who they were, because as usual my memory lapsed. She told me “Newsboys.” I looked at her and said “No way…. really??” Ok, I know who the Newsboys are, and granted they were there but not until later in the concert (as in, the end) but I still went with it. Of course, I know better now.

Tony Nolan at Winter Jam 2011 in Louisville

Band after band, the music went on. Tony Nolan, the guest speaker of the tour got up and told us a bit about himself and his history. He is such an interesting and dynamic speaker. He has a book out that sounded pretty interesting, but I didn’t end up getting it.

Of all people to send a message, Tony Nolan is a great choice. His history shocked me to my core. I never would have guessed half of the things he told us. He struggled from day one and now gets up and tells everyone about it. I’m sitting in my seat listening to him talk about being adopted into an abusive family in a bad neighborhood (very near where I grew up) and getting into drugs and alcohol. As I sit, I am thinking, all those people out there who have no idea how to find the good in themselves, just need to look at Tony here to see that the floor doesn’t keep dropping out from under you.

It seems like sentimental nonsense when I write it here, but being there was very powerful. Everyone can take a message away from it, even if it’s as simple as “don’t be so hard on yourself, everyone is human.”

David Crowder and band put on a "hoe down" while playing in Louisville.

 

David Crowder talking to the crowd at Winter Jam 2011

Great music, a fantastic speaker and stunning effects – all before intermission. There was a talk about helping orphans with Holt International. The stories were moving and if I were anything other than a broke college student, I would have considered sponsoring a child. Alas, I am not. Instead I applauded the people who lined up to do so.

KJ-52, a hip/hop Christian band pumped everyone up for the second act. Kutless made their appearance with a slow start, but got around to playing some songs I loved.

My sister and I decided to go out and check out the merchandise tables. I bought some CDs and looked around. Chris Sligh was the only artist I noticed out at the tables greeting fans. I thought about stopping to say hello, but even with the concert going on there was quite a crowd around his table. We passed.

Multiply this by eight or so. One of the reasons we left a bit early... we did not want to fight traffic to get home.

Always in an attempt to avoid traffic we leave early. I must admit, after viewing my friend’s pictures I am kind of disappointed that I missed Newsboys. From what I can see they had the drummer’s platform rigged so it lifted up, tilted and spun while he was playing. I really, really wish I hadn’t missed that. Next year, I am sticking around ’till the bitter end.