Sunday, December 30, 2007

My sincerest apologies...

...for having not updated this in several weeks. We've been insanely busy finishing up our respective semesters, preparing for the holidays, dealing with leaky windows, etc. And then we had perhaps our most authentic midwest experience to date: our travel plans were affected by the weather. This has literally NEVER happened to me before; I mean, I've dealt with delayed flights and all those kinds of inconveniences, but this time we were fully defeated. We showed up at the airport, Vinny in tow, we got in line, Matt looked at the flight info screen, Matt informed me that our flight was canceled, lady at desk said next flight she could get us out on wasn't until two days later--Christmas Eve. Bad. So we turned around and left the airport one half hour later, especially irritated by the fact that it was warmer that day than it had been in weeks (44 degrees) and it was the FOG that kept the planes on the ground.

The saving grace: to make ourselves feel better, we went out to dinner that night at the Third Ward Cafe, a very sweet and quiet little restaurant in the downtown warehouse district. The food and wine were spectacular and it seemed, momentarily, that our travel delay was a blessing in disguise because we'd get to spend a couple of quality days together.

Then the next day it was -4 degrees with wind chill and we no longer felt blessed. We hardly left the house and when we did I almost died. That is not an exaggeration. Thankfully, Christmas Eve was clear and sunny, and our flight was only delayed a few minutes, and we made it home safe and sound.

We had a fantastic vacation in San Diego, which was absolutely gorgeous and sunny and WARM the whole week. Although, clearly the 50s and low 60s aren't warm for San Diegans. I saw SO many girls wearing UGG boots and furry outerwear and thought--rather haughtily, I fully admit--about how there is actually a legitimate use for such things in places like Antarctica, Greenland, Wisconsin, and likely much of Canada. Anyway, we spent much time with family, and we even got my dad out of the house (he is currently recovering from his knee replacement surgery) for a really lovely Christmas dinner at the Leach house. In one week I think we saw every person we know even remotely well in San Diego. I over-ate the entire time and I don't regret it because I had so much good food, including the requisite Santana's burrito which was TO DIE FOR. For Christmas I received numerous cold weather essentials and was actually quite excited to return to Milwaukee and try them out. As it happened, it was 10 degrees when we arrived home today and therefore the calf-length down-filled parka and the ear-flap yeti hat came in handy almost immediately. How convenient!!!

I was overall very happy to get home, despite the fact that our house was at 42 degrees when we walked in, we have no food in the fridge, and the windows are still leaky. It's funny--I kind of missed the snow and the cold. Is that absolutely ridiculous? Am I going to be completely eating my words in one month when "cold" doesn't even begin to describe the hell that is REAL winter in the upper midwest? Probably, but for now I feel better equipped than ever (apparel-wise) to face the onslaught, and I'm rather happy to be back in the frozen tundra. We went and picked up kitty, and I actually kind of missed him, too. He's been acting suspiciously nice to us all evening, so I'm kind of wondering what expensive piece of electronics he will ruin tomorrow to even things out.

Oh, and our neighbor got Vinny a yellow Sponge Bob Square Pants sweater for Christmas. It is absolutely fantastic and I will post a picture as soon as I think to do so because it's one of the most hysterical things I have ever, ever seen.

That was a sort of shoddy summary of the past few weeks but it will have to suffice, because it's almost midnight and I am taking Matt to the hospital early tomorrow morning for his ACL repair surgery. Wish him luck. He'll be spending one night there (I might, too, who knows) and will return home Wednesday morning. He has already announced that during his convalescence he will attempt to contribute to this blog, so check back frequently if you're interested in his account of the recovery process, which will most likely not accurately portray how much a slave he is making of me, so I'll try to write about it too in order to set the record straight. :)

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

SNOW DAY! (ice day?)

Wisconsin is ridiculous. I have proof:

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Due to an overnight ICE storm and the current preponderance of palm-sized (I swear) snow "flakes," I am sitting at home, drinking tea and writing in this blog, instead of working.


Furthermore, it is a whopping 32 degrees outside, which doesn't much impress my fellow Californians but now strikes me as rather balmy compared to the EIGHT sniveling degrees it was a few mornings ago.

All would be fine and dandy if I wasn't ever-so-slightly worried about the fact that the Subaru is currently becoming rather effectively snowed in and I'm supposed to pick Matt up from school in about an hour. I'm no good with a shovel (I don't yet even own a pair of boots) and our neighbor and his snowblower appear to also be taking a snow day....this could be a problem. Sorry Matt.

Anyway, it has been snowing off and on for days. It is absolutely unbelievable; my neighbors and coworkers claim there hasn't been this much snow in years. I can't even begin to describe it. I took this picture the other night:

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We have been suitably lazy homebodies, given the weather. I wear like 8 layers even indoors, drink obscene amounts of tea and hot cocoa, and you better believe it is next to impossible to get out of bed at 6 in the morning. Matt spends most of his time "studying," on the couch, under a blanket, with the furry ones. Exhibit A:

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Vinny also wears layers, and he sometimes won't get out of bed all day. Kitty doesn't seem much affected, however, and continues on his quest to destroy all valuable items in this apartment.

Oh thank god, our neighbor is blowing the driveway. Well, it appears Matt might make it home today after all.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend Part Two/It's FREAKING COLD here/go me!/Snow Dog!

I will firstly summarize the rest of our Thanksgiving weekend with Thor, Dio, and Antigone: it was awesome. Lots of eating, lots of drinking, and even lots of sight seeing despite the chilly temperatures. I appreciated Dio's tenacity; I know she is not built for freezing temperatures, but she did a great job of bundling up and pushing through. On Saturday we visited the art museum and Discovery World, and then cruised the River Walk a bit. It was cold but very pretty that day, clear and sunny.

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Later we assembled the fake Christmas tree my neighbor lent us and decorated it with some cheap decorations from Drew's Variety Store in downtown Tosa. I won't lie, this tree is verging on Charlie Brown. But hey, it was free! We ate dinner at home that night, took a cold weather/warm drink walk through the Highlands, and watched a movie. On Sunday, we went to Whitefish Bay, a charming and somewhat upscale little city north of downtown. I love that area. We walked through some of the neighborhoods until we found shore access, and then played on the beach for a half hour or so. It was beautiful.

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We then took a tour of Sprecher Brewery, only about five minutes from Whitefish Bay in Glendale. They make German style beers and also some very good sodas (root beer, cream soda, orange soda, etc.) so we all had beverages to try. We ate cheese curds (still not sold on those) and bought a growler of Bavarian Black.

All of us were feeling pretty good by the time we went to Il Mito, one of my most favorite Italian restaurants ever, for dinner. We had an amazing meal and drank a bunch of wine and were very, very merry. The night continued in that fashion, and all of us were somewhat regretting the extent of the merriness the next morning, especially me, since I had to go to work at 8 am. :(

We said goodbye to our visitors that evening and were very sad to see them go. It was so nice having family come to us for Thanksgiving; pretty much a perfect weekend.

The rest of this past week was rather uneventful except for a) the RIDICULOUS temperatures (when I got in my car Wednesday morning it was 18 degrees outside--I almost lost my fingers on the 2 minute walk from my car to the door of the hospital), and b) the fact that I had to take this irritating Human Growth and Development test that I had efficiently not studied at all for. Passing this test would essentially get me out of a class required of applicants to the MSN program at UW Milwaukee. The subject matter somewhat overlapped with the general Psych class I took during the summer, and I really did not want to have to take the entire class just to apply to a program that is really just a back up for me. So I decided to give the test a go, since all I needed to do was pass to get credit. Suffice it to say, I squeeked by--I got the absolute minimum score needed to pass. While I am not necessarily proud of this, I'm fairly pleased with the fact that with a minimal amount of effort I got credit for a 3 unit class. So, go me!

Moving on--we are in the midst of a real, honest-to-god snowstorm. It has snowed for a good 6 hours so far today. Here's how it looked at 11 am:

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Around 1:30 pm, it looked like this:

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And by 3:30 pm, our neighbor was out with the snow blower, clearing our driveway and sidewalk of several inches of snow.

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It's wild. I shoved Vinny out the door and he was truly confused; he went out in the snow last week but there was much less of it.

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He was tentative at first but within a few minutes he was bounding around the yard, kicking up snow everywhere, having a ball. He likes it! He's a snow dog!! Who would have ever guessed?

Despite the cold we are warm and happy in our apartment, which we have not left all day. The cat is entertaining himself by intermittently destroying parts of the Christmas tree, and Vinny has been under the covers in bed ever since his little romp in the snow. I'm glad this storm is happening on a weekend so that we can be lazy and enjoy it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Two White Thanksgivings

On our first Thanksgiving (Thursday), I awoke, walked downstairs, looked out our living room window, and saw this:

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I knew, to some extent, that it would be a beautiful morning. It started snowing the night before when Matt was driving me to my soccer game. The snow was really coming down; as you might imagine, I was dying of excitement. After my team lost our fourth straight (we're getting better, but I would not say we'll be approaching world cup status any time soon) we drove home and I oggled the newly blanketed chevys and street signs and front yards, so much lovelier in white. It was still coming down when we arrived home, so I grabbed my camera.

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It was a wonderful snowfall and deposited about an inch, maybe more, of perfect fluffy snow. The next morning, as evidenced above, was absolutely gorgeous--sunny, clear, COLD. When we first let Vinny outside, he looked at us like we were crazy. But Matt literally tossed him into the yard, and within minutes he seemed fairly ok with the snow, prancing around barking at the neighbors like usual. After he had thoroughly inspected the yard, we took him for a walk and enjoyed the Highlands.

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It was a glorious day. Thor, Dio, and Antigone weren't getting in until 5 pm, so we accepted our neighbors' invitation to come watch the Packers' game and eat hors d'oevres. As it turned out, this was a fascinating experience due to the fact that these particular neighbors are pretty serious hippies, but I won't go into detail about that now. Suffice it to say that it was a very nice day, and after we got Thor, Dio, and Antigone home we ate a great dinner that Matt cooked (polenta pie with black beans, peppers, and salsa, very spicy and good).

So, that was Thanksgiving #1. But today was our REAL Thanksgiving. All of us wanted a vegetarian Thanksgiving, and we also wanted to cook whatever we liked, instead of sticking to all the regular dishes. So we went with numerous courses, starting with breakfast burritos in the morning. Later courses included a sweet potato and carrot dish with chick pea topping (a favorite slow cooker recipe of mine and Matt's), pumpkin risotto and beets, mashed potatoes and vegetarian gravy, stuffing with dried cherries and apricots, and basil corn pudding. It was all delicious, and at the finish we were sufficiently stuffed. So we made some spiced (spiked?!) cider, bundled up, and took another walk through the Highlands. There remains some snow on the ground tonight, and it is still clear, and COLD. But with bellies full and brains blurry we weren't much affected by the temperature, and enjoyed the walk very much.

So, second Thanksgiving was also fantastic, and also white, and I look forward to spending the rest of the weekend with family and continuing to enjoy this clear, lovely, COLD weather.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Adventures of Lone Wolf and Crouching Tiger

Meet the newest member of our family:

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Snoopy. Aka Crouching Tiger, Destructo-cat, Snoopaloop, Snoop-Cat, or just plain Kitty. There will be many more nicknames to come, I'm sure.

We've been quite familiar with this little devil for a good while now. He belonged to our neighbor, Ali, and her son Sam, and he figured out months ago how to break into our basement from theirs (since we share a duplex, our basements are attached). He visited us almost daily, because Ali couldn't figure out how he was getting through. We didn't really mind. The cat's kind of a terror but he's FULL of personality, and he gives Vinny a run for his money, which is amusing. Anyway, Sam would always complain about how Snoopy scratched or bit him, and apparently their other cats didn't really like Crouching Tiger, either. Eventually Sam had so much animosity toward the cat that he apparently tried to strangle him, and at that point Ali decided to take him to the Humane Society and give him up for adoption.

Well, the Humane Society ran a "personality profile" on Snoopaloop and deemed him unadoptable, and they called Ali to tell her they were going to euthanize him. She informed me of this and I freaked out. So we went and picked him up the next day, saved him from death row, and he moved right in and now owns our apartment. I think Vinny is happy to have a playmate, even though Snoopy has been slowly but surely taking over all of Vinny's favorite sleep spots.

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I was a little worried the cat would destroy our place, or seriously injure Vinny, or just generally be difficult. But he hasn't been difficult, at all. He's a total sweetheart and he fits right in. Evidence:

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Matt now has two study buddies.

I like having another animal around. It makes the activity level around here much less predictable; Snoop and Vinny alternately cuddle and wreak havoc upon the rugs. Occasionally in the middle of the night I hear a crash and I worry, but we haven't lost anything valuable yet. So, all in all, I think we did the right thing. Crouching Tiger will live a long, fulfilling life as part of the Brickleach household.

In other news, Matt turned 25 yesterday. I made French toast for brunch and was pleased with the result (I've never made it before--it's not difficult, at all, but with my penchant for ruining things in the kitchen every small success turns into a serious victory). We went out to dinner later in the evening at a very nice little restaurant just a couple minutes from our house. Overall, it was a lovely day, and a good break for Matt in the midst of studying for yet another block of exams.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Breakdowns, Breakthroughs

The funny thing about working with kids with actual psychiatric disorders is that it's often unclear just how much control they really have over their actions and feelings. I clicked with a girl last week, a girl who was an absolute terror to pretty much every other person on the unit. She had visual and auditory hallucinations before she came in; struck a teacher, destroyed a classroom as a result. She was really awful. Wouldn't listen, called the nurses all sorts of terrible/creative/somewhat true (haha) things, was restrained in full leathers numerous times. She'd been admitted before. Most of the really bad kids are not new to us.

We had a breakthrough, of sorts. I spent an entire morning basically just trying to keep her in the classroom--that was my assignment. And then at some point she actually started listening to me, and then at some other point I realized that at the age of 14 she still doesn't know most of her times tables, and so we somehow got through the fours and the sixes. This apparently made me the Kid Whisperer, since the nurses couldn't even get her to eat breakfast without her wreaking havoc upon the unit. So after that when she got out of control it turned into, "have Caitlin work with her," which, honestly, was just the sort of pathetic excuse they would have for "treatment" at County. And, predictably, it only worked for two days. The last day she was in they had her really heavily medicated and it was kind of like any trust we'd built had been wiped clean overnight. She looked at me like she didn't know me, she vilified me just like she did the other teachers and the nurses, and I knew not to take it personally but it was still kind of sad. She was discharged that day because the doctors didn't know what else they could do with her.

I like to think that we can make a difference but with some of these kids you have to wonder if it's possible, at all. Makes me curious about child psychiatrists. Not sure I would ever want that job.

On a lighter note, if it's possible to make that transition, we've been cold. It's been in the 40s, and even the 30s, and tonight there's a chance of "light snow." Actually, I love it. I bundle up in the morning and the teachers make merciless fun of me because in early November I'm already channeling the Eskimo. But I don't complain, yet. I like the smell of fireplaces and I like seeing my breath, thick and unhappy as soon as it exits its little sauna. Vinny, however, isn't terribly pleased. Today when I got home, I let him out. At first he was gung-ho about it, ready to go take on the backyard, and then two seconds later he's curled up at my feet on the grass, shivering violently and looking up at me like he feels bitter and deceived. Oh Vinny. If anyone's gonna have to adapt to no longer being a Californian, it's him.

In other news, I might be exercising a polo pony (a super GORGEOUS 5-year-old bay thoroughbred mare owned by a teacher at my school--Pat, you would die) but I won't go into the details until it actually happens. I also joined 1.5 indoor soccer teams and am really, really happy to be wheezing again (um, I'm outta shape). As far as home stuff is concerned, Matt has been cooking up a storm and I can't believe my luck--he's talented, and ambitious! It works out well. He cooks, I clean, we both benefit. We are happy.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wisconsin, Vacationing in Wisconsin, and why I Heart Fall.

We took a weekend trip to Door County this weekend and I'm in love. Matt said some of the little lakefront towns reminded him of New England; I'm less familiar with New England, but they reminded me a bit of heaven. It was a perfect time to go--apparently the very last weekend of the tourist season, there were few people but a preponderance of splendid red-pink-orange-yellow trees. We are so lucky that Jeff Leach plays bridge with a lovely woman who happens to own a lovely condo in Ephraim, on the west coast of the peninsula. Here is the view from the back porch of the condo:

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Door County Peninsula protrudes north (and a little east) from Wisconsin into Lake Michigan, and as such has little towns and harbors dotting its more than 300 miles of shoreline (little fact: this county has more shoreline than any other in the U.S.). Here's a map to help orient you, if you're at all interested in being oriented (Door County is the part in red).

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As I mentioned before, we stayed in Ephraim, a village founded as a Moravian religious community in 1853. If you're like me, 'Moravian' means nothing to you--a little research taught me that it's a mainstream protestant denomination that apparently started in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in the 14th century. Anyway, there are several historic buildings still standing in town, including a one-room schoolhouse and Moravian church dating from the mid-1800s, but other than that I'd say there are several small shops and restaurants and many very pretty lakefront homes, and not much else. Here are a couple pictures of the lake right across the street from where we stayed:

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It was, as you can see, absolutely gorgeous. I nearly died the morning after we arrived, when I could see exactly what we had somehow fallen into. We drove into Bailey's Harbor on Saturday and then visited a kind of infamous little bar, the Blue Ox (probably only infamous to those who have heard Jeff's story of the Lawrence University pre-med Door County retreat--if you haven't heard this story, it's probably worth hearing at some point). Jeff, this picture is for you:

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We later went wine tasting at Stone's Throw Winery, which had some very good wines, and then went in the afternoon to Fish Creek, a very touristy but very beautiful little town with a stunning harbor.

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Vinny was Mr. Popular all day. I swear, in Fish Creek, every person who passed us stopped to exclaim how adorable he is (and he is adorable, so I don't blame them).

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Aly was in charge of dinner and it was delectable. For me personally, she did portabella mushrooms with goat cheese in a balsamic reduction, and I was HAPPY. Much wine was also consumed and we slept very well in the quiet of a basically abandoned condo complex in a deciduous forest on the shore of Lake Michigan. As you can imagine, this suited Matt, who is still recovering from a week of intense exams. It also suited me, who had to deal with Matt while he was dealing with a week of intense exams.

On Sunday we went to breakfast, packed up, and left Ephraim. I wanted a quick stop in Egg Harbor, which we'd driven through on the way up, just for photos. It's breathtaking.

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We drove home through the more rural areas of eastern Wisconsin and I must admit, I love those too. Wisconsin farms are different from California farms; they're greener, more old-fashioned; they seem as though they haven't changed in 100 years.

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It was a wonderful weekend. On top of the fall colors, it was clear and in the high 60s and low 70s all weekend. Perfect weather. If you want to see all the pictures, go to my Picasa website.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Work, then play.

Interesting week at work, to say the least. We started out with 26 kids on Monday, when our classroom capacity is actually around 14. We had to be a bit creative to accommodate all those kids and it got kind of crazy; also, everything was aggravated by the fact that a) the nurses are rather crabby and dissatisfied almost all the time, and b) we have some legitimately ill patients right now and I'm amazed at how no one seems to want to deal with them. There's the kid who won't talk and walks in and out of class as she pleases, not answering to anyone, with an apparent penchant for cleaning (she makes other patients' beds, picks up their clothes, etc.). I have been somewhat in awe of this girl since she arrived, but everyone seems to think she's faking so they pretty much just ignore her as she wanders the unit without consequence. Then there's a catatonic kid. Seriously, truly, this kid came in and was walking and talking and everything and then the next day he's unable to move, speak, even blink an eye. I have never in my life seen anything like this and have been fascinated by his recovery process (and the fact that no one seems terribly worried about him: "the meds will get him back to normal, eventually"). On top of all this the unit is sort of in a perpetual state of chaos. There's a lot of politicking going on between nurses and teachers, nurses and social workers, nurses and doctors--everyone is always complaining but it doesn't really seem like there is anyone who takes charge and organizes things. I try to appear neutral since my opinion doesn't matter much anyway; I will say, however, that I sometimes feel like peoples' priorities are a little questionable (um, sick kids, anyone?). Anyway, staying neutral allows me to just chill with the kids, and I like them best of all, and I think they trust me because I'm not technically part of anyone's agenda.

My mom has been visiting this weekend and we've had a really good time. The weather is so lovely right now--it cooled down this past week to the 40s and 50s and it is now officially fall. I love the cooler weather. My mom and I have probably walked a good 10 miles this weekend and in a long sleeved shirt and fleece it's very comfortable outside. Vinny is ok, too, as long as he's wearing a sweater. He's gotten many compliments on his wardrobe lately.

This morning we went downtown and had brunch at the Pfister Hotel. Again. It's such a neat old hotel. Here is a picture of the lobby:

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My mom also learned something about the very cool old building across the street (picture is below): it is an exclusive turn of the century Gentleman's Club that is still open today. You have to be invited to join, and apparently women can be members now as well (I don't really get what makes it a "gentleman's club," in that case, but whatever). Also, there used to be an underground tunnel that connected the club to the Pfister, so that members could sneak over to meet their mistresses at the hotel. Apparently that tunnel is now closed. How unfortunate.

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We also walked around downtown a little (mostly we were inside a mall, to be honest, because it was sort of pouring rain outside) and I took some pictures of the river walk area, which I love. I'll post one below. I keep growing more enamored with Milwaukee's downtown; I'd love to live there at some point.

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Matt has a block of tests this week and has been studying like a madman. Luckily, next weekend we are going up to Door County, a couple hours north, to have a little vacation courtesy of a friend of Matt's parents who owns a condo there. Aly and Phil are going with us. Door County is apparently very beautiful; I'm sure I'll have many pictures to post next week.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Back to Hi Mount, and a new job.

First of all, I returned to Hi Mount Road to take a few pictures of its loveliness. It was particularly stunning today in the aftermath of a CRAZY thunderstorm that kept me up all night and succeeded in knocking a whole lot of orange-yellow leaves onto the sidewalks and streets. Fall is coming! I would believe it 100% if it wasn't still so warm; tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and 76 degrees. Oh well. Here are the pictures, anyway....

In other news, I started my new job today. It's kind of crazy. I started off the day in a classroom of five kids, all of them about 11 or 12 years old. All of them had either attempted suicide or threatened to; most of them were pretty severely depressed; one of them apparently spent most of Friday on the floor screaming, even though today he seemed sweet and mild-mannered. They were all very well-behaved, actually, and most of them would talk to me if I prodded them. It was interesting listening to them talk about when they were going to be discharged. Some went home just during the course of the day, while one boy stated, quite matter-of-factly, that he thought he'd be there at least past Halloween. They're so acutely aware of the state of things, even though the adults kind of try to keep them in the dark in an attempt to promote positivity.

I spent the afternoon with the adolescents. We're talking 14 year-old drug dealers, heroine addicts, multiple suicide attempts, etc. And yet, they seemed so normal to me. That might seem strange, but hey, adolescents are adolescents. They clearly care a lot about their hair and makeup, no matter that they currently reside in a psychiatric facility. I was a little afraid that by this age the kids would be manipulative or just rude, but they were actually pretty subdued and they welcomed the opportunity to talk about themselves to someone new.

So, all in all, a pretty fascinating first day. Tomorrow I get to go to rounds in the morning and I'm really looking forward to that. All of these bizarre and sordid short-life histories. It's sad but I'm intrigued. These are not your typical special ed kids; these kids have been through more than I could even begin to understand.

I've had some people ask about Matt, so I'll tell you right now what he's been doing all day, every day: studying. He goes to school from about 8:30 am to 5:00 pm every day, and comes home and studies all evening, usually until about 11 pm. I actually think he's pretty reasonable about it. He doesn't stress himself out too much, he just studies A LOT. I got the chance to go "meet" his cadaver a couple weekends ago (the cadaver he and his group have been dissecting almost every day in anatomy lab). It was insane. I'll tell you what: seeing a dead human being, half dissected, might really affect your ideas of what constitutes a 'person.' I wasn't too disturbed by the experience because I didn't feel like it was a real person, at all. Whatever had made that man a person was completely and totally gone.

Well, that's about it for now. I have to go watch the end of this extremely disappointing Padres game. Matt has apparently taken a couple hours off studying to curse and pace back and forth while Peavey keeps giving up hits to the Rockies. Honestly, I'll be glad when the Padres season is over--they stress me out. Luckily, the Ghargers season is already over!! (I typed that very, very bitterly, just so you know.)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Basically, bragging about kitchen-related endeavors and the fact that I have a job.

Matt and I have been trying our hand(s) at cooking, with mixed results. I think he is a little more excited about it than I am, except when it comes to the slow cooker--I am sort of obsessed with that thing. I got one about a month ago and also ordered a cookbook called "The 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes." This cookbook is SO FREAKIN AWESOME. First of all, it's ridiculously simple. I think the hardest thing I've had to do thus far is cut sweet potatoes into 3/8" cubes (and yes, that's kind of hard--but then again, I am a terror with sharp objects and our red Kitchen Aid knives, while adorable, are basically murder weapons). Second of all, it thrills me to come home to a finished meal. I really prefer to do the food preparation the night or morning before; it's so exciting to come home from work to a house that smells like sweet potato and barley risotto and then to be able to just sit down and eat it whenever you want.

Anyway, we've made a couple things we really liked. Chili was one--clearly a good choice for the slow cooker. Then I made this sweet potato and carrot dish with a chick pea topping, and it was amazing--probably my favorite so far. We've done a couple of the barley recipes but Matt didn't think they were flavorful enough. I liked them because they taste so healthy and hearty but they are, admittedly, vaguely reminiscent of baby food. This week I think we're going to try one of the curries, which will hopefully be a little more interesting. If anyone has any good vegetarian slow cooker recipes (or just easy veggie recipes, in general), please pass them on! To be honest, I like trying to do new things as long as they don't require bizarre and/or specific techniques (I can beat things, I can chop things, don't ask me for much more than that) or require a ton of ingredients that I've never heard of before.

I'll switch gears and talk a little about employment. When we got here I really wasn't all that worried about finding a job. Honestly, my standards were low; I wanted benefits, halfway decent pay, and a job that would be good for just one year since I'm planning on going back to school full time, assuming I get accepted, next summer. I was sort of shocked at the lack of response as I started filling out applications and sending out resumes like a crazy person, and eventually I was feeling desperate and took a job at a coffee shop in the Milwaukee Art Museum. This was not, as it turns out, a terrible idea. The Milwaukee Art Museum is pretty spectacular for a small scale museum; the coolest part of the building, where I happen to work, was added in 2001 and designed by an apparently very famous architect, Santiago Calatrava. Here's a picture from the MAM website.

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I actually met a man from California the other day who had come to Milwaukee only to see this building because he's an architect himself and loves Calatrava. I thought that was pretty cool. Anyway, the coffee cart where I work is in a very beautiful stretch of hall lined with big windows that look out at Lake Michigan. Here are a couple pictures I took.

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Not bad, huh? It's really a pretty chill job. My boss is a young entrepreneur who knows EVERY restaurant worth going to in Milwaukee. This has already come in handy for us; he recommended the Pfister hotel for brunch and we went with my sister two weekends ago--it's fantastic. Also, I can make a MEAN capuccino and get more than my fair share of free coffee.

Inevitably, as soon as I took the coffee shop job I got an interview for a job with the Wauwatosa School District as a Special Education Aide. I had no idea what this would entail, but as it turned out the particular school I'll be working at is located at Milwaukee Mental Health and serves children and young adults who are inpatients at the Milwaukee Child and Adolescent Treatment Center. Basically, kids with psychiatric disorders. Once I realized this, I became terribly excited. Having a Dad who's a shrink, I love this kind of stuff and I know I will find it interesting, at the very least. We get to participate in rounds each morning with doctors and nurses to get the low down on our students; most of the kids are only short-term, so each week, or even each day, we'll have a different group. I'll be working with ages 3-21 (seriously). In short, I won't be bored. I start on Monday and I'm really excited to see what it's all about. Also, they're giving me health insurance--YAY. But I'm still going to work at the coffee shop once a weekend, for some extra money, and because I have some ongoing bets with museum employees involving NFL football (DOWN with the Packer backers).

In conclusion, I now have two (meager) sources of income and I'm very glad to put friends and family (mostly family) at ease--no, I'm not going to starve out here, I swear. I might freeze, though. That's a whole different story.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Happenings in Wauwatosa

I was sort of over the whole blog thing but I find that recently I have so much I wish I could share with friends and family about our experiences out here in Wisconsin. So I think that I'll just share, and people can read or not read, and I hope it's not too terribly dull. I guess the thing is, this move doesn't only represent a (pretty extreme) change in location, at least not for me; perhaps more interesting are the little changes that have accompanied our new circumstances: being out of 'the nest' again (finally), cooking for ourselves, learning to live together, figuring out education and career stuff, making new friends, etc. And all of that on top of the fact that there are so many interesting and curious things about Milwaukee, and about the midwest in general, that I'm learning every day. AND the fact that Matt's in medical school, which (I'm coming to realize) is such an extreme circumstance in and of itself.

So, those are my excuses for starting this blog. To be honest, the real impetus was a run I took yesterday that led me to Hi Mount Road, or maybe two blocks of Hi Mount Road, on the edge of the Washington Highlands. The Highlands consist of about a square half mile of truly lovely (and large) homes, many of them designated historic sites; this neighborhood conveniently begins right across the street from us so I run through it fairly often and lust after the elegant English tudor and colonial revival-style houses and well-manicured yards. Here are a couple pictures of some of the houses--these aren't the best, actually, so I'll try and take some better ones soon.

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Anyway, back to Hi Mount Road--I don't think it's technically part of the Highlands. It's a little farther east. The houses are similar in scale but a little older, I think, and they are set even further back off the road. The entire street is covered with a canopy of huge old trees, which is, I think, why I like it so much. Most roads in Wauwatosa are tree-lined in an almost movie-set sort of way, but this street in particular is almost forested. It's absolutely beautiful. I'll post a picture as soon as I get the chance to take one because I'm clearly lacking in my verbal explanation.

The reason I wanted to write about this street is that it kind of represents all the things I am coming to love about Wisconsin. I didn't expect it to be so beautiful here. We live in a suburb, but it is nothing like a California suburb--the houses are old, and they are all unique, and they were built in a way that leaves space for the trees (which, since it's starting to be fall, are truly spectacular). People are out in their yards all the time, and the yards don't tend to be fenced with 9 foot security fences like they are in the west. We have little kids running through our backyard daily, going from one neighbor's house to the other, and I love it (so does Vinny--he's made some fast friends). Maybe the real word for it all is 'charming.' And it's not surface-level charming, either. We've been here almost two months now and I keep finding new things I love about it.

I'll try not to go off the deep end about Wisconsin's wonders. Clearly, California remains possibly the best state ever invented and pretty much everyone I meet out here would rather be there than here. But it's heartening to move to a completely different place and immediately become aware of its virtues, rather than its shortcomings, and to realize that there are places outside of California that are worth living in, and that it's actually refreshing to escape the west coast for a while.

I have so many other things to talk about, namely: jobs, wine club, the countless joys of the slow cooker (I swear), and the approaching winter (ominous, at best). But I'll have to do that later. I'll leave you with a picture of our house, taken just today. It's no historical site, but I like it. (We're on the left.)

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