American Pride

FLagI was six years old the first time I felt an overwhelming feeling of patriotism. I was standing in my elementary school gym, staring at the flag with my right hand over my heart, singing at the top of my lungs.

If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I’d worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.

I admit I don’t appreciate my freedom like I should. It’s not something I thank God for when I wake up in the morning. Instead, I find myself thanking him for the mundane conveniences in life, like being able to button my favorite jeans with no muffin top or a short commute. I skate through life, a smile on my face, rarely stopping to think about why it’s so great in the first place.

I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin’ here today.
‘ Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.

When I do stop and think about it, I realize why it’s so easy to forget. I live in the greatest country – a developed country, a democracy. I’ve grown up with choices. The American dream was in my grasp from the moment I left the womb. I was born with the ability to succeed, if I chose to do so.

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

A grin spread on my young face as we all approached our favorite verse. I grabbed my best friend, Kayla’s hand, bending my knees in anticipation of what came next.

And I gladly stand up,

In unison, we stood as tall as we could. We stretched our heads to the ceiling, our voices filling the air. We sang louder, and we sang prouder.

next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

The beauty of this country is that we come together in the time of need. Unfortunately, those times seem to be happening more and more often. The internet swirls with banners of breaking news. News that makes my heart sink. News that makes me reevaluate my priorities and hug my loved ones at home. News that makes me ask “Why?”

From the lakes of Minnesota,
to the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.

I don’t think I’ll ever find the answer to that looming question but what I do know is that I will always find people who care. And just as I was filled with pride as a six year old singing a song, I am filled with the same feeling as an adult.

From Detroit down to Houston,
and New York to L.A.
Well there’s pride in every American heart,
and its time we stand and say.

Last night, Tom and I went to the Blackhawks play-off game. The crowd was a sea of red, filled with loud, excited chatter. I was anxious with anticipation as we waited for the game to start. I sipped my beer making small talk with Tom as I observed the crowd. It was amazing to think just a week earlier the whole country was in a state of turmoil.

That I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

For every tragedy, there is a nation united, standing as one. And I can’t think of a better place to experience this unity than a Blackhawk’s game. As with most American games, it is preceded with a rendition of the national anthem. The difference being at the United Center it is not the quiet rendition.

A voice boomed through the stadium announcing Jim Cornelison, the same singer who has sang the anthem for the last four years. In that moment, I was transported back to my six year old self but this time I grabbed Tom’s hand. We stood up, anticipating what came next.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA

As soon as Jim belted the first note, the fans erupted in cheers. The entire stadium was yelling, clapping, singing…and smiling. I looked around observing the pure joy and pride on every single person’s face. The fans were united. The fans were proud. And the fans were loud!

And I’m proud to be and American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

“I’m so happy.” I shouted to Tom. “I’m busting with pride. This is amazing!”

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,

For me, pride is an overwhelming feeling that doesn’t happen every day but last night was a reminder. Being proud of our country shouldn’t be a feeling that comes out only in the wake of tragedy. It should be something I feel every day.

God bless the USA.

*Here is a video of the Blackhawks national anthem.

Monday

Toy poodle or feret on steroids?  You decide.Photo source: Yahoo!

Toy poodle or feret on steroids? You decide.
Photo source: Yahoo!

Most Mondays, I question that I chose working as a career.  Why couldn’t I have majored in vacation?  I am really good at sitting, eating, smiling, enjoying, relaxing, drinking and sleeping.  Basically, I bring all the skills needed to be the CEO of Vacation.  Yet, nine years post college, here I sit (in a cube no less) every Monday daydreaming about five day weekends and two day work weeks, asking myself, why?  

Usually to make myself feel better, I take a five minute break here and there to catch up on the latest and greatest on the interwebs.  Yahoo!, known for its groundbreaking reporting and stories, is where I typically start.   This morning was no different and as I perused the carousel I saw a headline that read, Man buys toy poodles, discovers they are actually ferrets on steroids.  Um, yes please – tell me more.  

As it turns out, there is a market in Buenos Aires that sells “puppies” that are actually ferrets and rats.  They pump varmints up with steroids, fluff their hair and scam people.  Now, I’ve seen both rats and ferrets.  They are both disgusting, smelly animals that I am shocked could be mistaken for puppies.  But then I thought about it for a bit.

If I were the CEO of Vacation, Buenos Aires would definitely be on my list of destinations.  I would sleep in, eat a lot and drink more.  Then, after I had a substantial buzz, I would wander around the city taking in the sights, which would most likely include a visit to La Salada, Argentina’s largest bazaar.  In a vacation high, I would wander up and down the aisles of the market seeking out the cutest puppies.  I would pick them up and cuddle them, disregarding every red flag like the weasely movements and hissing. 

“What a cute puppy!” I’d exclaim to my vacation employees. 

“I want one.  If I could just hold onto him.”  I would look around as the puppy shimmied out of my arms.

“Do you sell leashes?” I’d ask the booth owner.

“Perfect!  I’ll take both puppies and two leashes.”  Then, my vacation high would be replaced with a puppy haze of happiness except that they weren’t really puppies.  They were ferrets.  And ferrets are weasels.  And weasels are gross and mean.  I would feel like the dumbest CEO of Vacation so I would try to hide the puppy scandal from everyone around the world.  I would fear getting fired from vacation. 

Then, my work phone rang and snapped me back to reality – maybe a career in working after all isn’t so bad.  I hate ferrets.

A New Year Means New [Lofty] Goals

GoalsI kicked off 2013 the same way I’ve kicked off every other year for the past decade – nursing a wicked hangover. I woke up in Evelyn’s bed blinded by the sun. She always complains it’s too bright in her apartment. While I always responded that it wasn’t so bad, yesterday, I realized she has been right all along. I tried everything to slow the drumbeat in my head – my arm splayed over my eyes, the pillow wrapped around my head and blankets pulled high. Yet, as usual, nothing worked except time. As Tom and I made the epic journey back to the suburbs pale faced and nauseous, he asked me what my mom always asks me, “Was it worth it?”

I was quiet.

For the first time in my life, I found myself not answering an enthusiastic “Yes!” Instead, I was rewinding the night. I was fortunate to ring in the new year with my best friends – Evelyn, Jack and Tom. Yet, I could have had just as much fun if I had only 3 glasses of champagne instead of the countless number I drank. But as with every new year, I celebrated with the freedom of ending one year and the hopefulness of another. It’s a fleeting feeling but one that fills me with joy to know there are new beginnings ahead.

As I drove into work today, relieved to feel like myself again, I thought about the year ahead and the things I want to do. I’ve never been one that’s good on follow through but last year I began to make a series of life changes. Work is going well, I’ve been working out regularly, being more money conscious, writing, etc. Surprisingly, those changes have added up, and somehow I’ve turned into a responsible adult. With this revelation, this year I’ve decided to make a few more hearty resolutions. When I texted them to Tom this morning, he said, “Wow, that’s a very comprehensive list.”

He’s right – it is. But I’m already on my way. This year is about taking the changes of last year and bringing them to a new level. Here are my resolutions, exactly as I sent them to Tom:

1. Enter a writing competition
2. Continue to work out each week to get into my goal pants (I bought the pants a year ago. They didn’t fit when I bought them so I’m not sure why I bought them. They taunt me every morning in my closet).
3. Reach new goals professionally – this one is vague but includes trying harder at work and/or a new job in the city
4. Maximizing the money I put into savings
5. Try to limit the processed foods eaten at home (this one is a bit aspirational). I want to continue exploring how to make things from scratch.
6. Be the best person I can be for Tom, Sam, friends, etc. This means always contributing at home, coming up with and initiating things to do on the weekends, being kind, etc.

So there you have it. I am welcoming 2013 and all it has to bring with open arms…and lofty goals.

What are your resolutions?

Wardrobe Decisions

Cowboy BootsI am always antsy the day before a trip. For one reason, I wait until the very last minute to pack every time. It’s a bad habit that will most likely never change.

There is a lot of thought that goes into packing for a trip home. When I was in college, the primary one was do I pack all dirty clothes to take advantage of easy access to a washing machine or do I pack half and half? I once brought home a 55 lb suitcase of dirty clothes. Luckily, it was before the days of being charged for luggage. In my twenties, I thought about how often I would be out with friends. And now in my thirties, I think about how many lounge outfits I need because let’s be realistic – when I am at my parent’s house all I do is sit around, eat, drink, watch tv, hang with the family, rinse and repeat. It’s awesome.

This year is a bit different. While lounge outfits are still what are being primarily packed, there is one other factor to consider. My mom is getting me a pair of cowboy boots for Christmas. I have been dying for a pair of boots and picked them out myself. I know they are already wrapped and under the tree, and I can’t wait to get my hands on them. When I do, I will have four days left at home to wear the boots. That means, I have to plan four outfits that I can wear with my new boots. It also means, I have to actually get dressed in real clothes for the last half of my vacation.

I love skirts and dresses with cowboy boots, but I also have a newfound love of skinny jeans after working my butt off at the gym. I have a lot of decisions to make today – maybe a spreadsheet will help. What do you think? What should I wear with my new boots?