Learning sign language

I work with several children with learning disabilities and speech impairments so to communicate with those children, I have been learning sign language. As a Girl Scout many, many years ago, I took classes in sign language, but I’m sad to say I don’t remember much so I’m starting fresh. I’m surprised that it’s much easier than I thought it would be. Most signs are very practical and almost what you would expect. Of course, I’m also working with very young children so I’m not learning any complex words at this time. I picked up a book on sign language the other day and plan on trying to learn one or two new signs every day. I really enjoy learning the language and I’m happy that I’m better able to communicate with my children now and can help them increase their communication abilities also.

{image via weheartit.com}


Back to the future photography

Aren’t these photos cool? Photographer Irina Werning’s new project allows people to relive their past by recreating old photographs. I am completely fascinated by the detail put into recreating the photographs to almost exact detail. I think this is such a fun idea and I would love to try it with a couple old family favorites of mine too. Check out her web site for a few more great photographs.




zeitoun by dave eggers. about a syrian-american who waits out hurricane katrina in his new orleans home. after the hurricane, zeitoun paddles around the flooded city, helping neighbors and saving abandoned dogs. later, he is arrested by guards accusing him of being al queda. {that's as far as i've gotten so far, but read the new york times review}


true grit. it's an amazing movie with a fantastic cast. this little girl, hailee steinfeld, is crazy good.

listening to...

wilco. non-stop. and wishing that i could go see them in concert during their next tour, but unfortunately the closest concert is in new orleans so that won't be possible. frontman jeff tweedy is also going on a solo tour, but the madison, wisc. tickets are sold out. bummer.

thinking about...

my best friends from college and i live in eight different states {wisconsin, illinois, minnesota, missouri, south carolina, tennessee, iowa and washington d.c., which counts as a state for this purpose}

i shared so many great times with them in college, it's sad not being near them anymore. i guess i've been spoiled in that i've never lived too far away from good friend and family. i never had to go more than a month without seeing ones i love, but now i only see some once or twice a year.

{image via weheartit}


Bubble Photography

My dad always sends me chain emails about interesting artists and odd projects so I was really surprised that he hadn't heard of Tom Storm's bubble project before me. Storm captures incredible landscapes and monuments in reflections on bubbles. This is a very creative technique that, despite the medium used, includes a new perspective and incredible detail. {Here's a good interview to read.}

Here are a few of my favorites of his work:


Interesting afternoon at the Chicago Cultural Center

About a month ago, I went to the Chicago Cultural Center with my friend. As we were wandering through photography exhibits, we passed an area that looked like an art studio, but we weren’t sure. He walked in. It turned out to be a Project Onward studio dedicated to the creative growth of artists with mental or developmental disabilities. {Read more about Project Onward here. It is truly an incredible program for artists with special needs.}

As my friend and I were browsing work in the gallery, we found an exhibit that we both really liked. The artist, Stephon Doby {definitely not pronounced Steven}, painted mostly portraits in a simple, yet clever way. I really liked the colors and focus on typically unnoticed details. Bill and I told one of the directors how much we enjoyed Doby’s work and so he insisted that we meet the artist.

I’m not quite sure how it came to happen, but I ended up getting my portrait painted by Stephon Doby. It was an experience that I won’t forget, especially because it was the first, and most likely the last, time I got my portrait painted. It doesn’t really look like me, but I love it just the same.

Bill and I were joking that next time we visit the Chicago Cultural Center it will be his turn to get a portrait painted. It may become a tradition.


Nanny and street photographer

The Chicago Cultural Center is running an exhibit of Vivian Maier, a street photographer and nanny in Chicago. Her story is a remarkable one. Throughout her life, she took over 100,000 photographs, mainly of people around Chicago, but she also travelled around the world with her camera. A few years ago, a real estate agent came across the remains of an unclaimed storage locker: over 100,000 negatives, more than 3,000 prints and a huge stockpile of undeveloped film. What is most interesting is that she kept these photographs and her hobby a secret from those around her.

Read more about Vivian Maier and view her photographs here.

{photographs via http://vivianmaier.blogspot.com/}

More and More and More Books

I've been on a book bender of late. I just cannot stop myself from reading or buying new ones. I've bought about 20 in the last two weeks alone! {I got most on sale or at a used bookstore so I at least didn't pay a lot for each of them because that would be ridiculously expensive.}

I ended up getting: Of Beetles and Angels: A Boy's Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard by Mawi Asgedom, Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society {I’ve read}, The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides {I’ve read}, Night by Elie Wiesel {I’ve read}, Never Let Me Go by Kazou Shiguro, The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman, A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines {I’ve read}, The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve, The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve, Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen {because I loved her Water for Elephants}, Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, Among Schoolchildren by Tracy Kidder (because I LOVE him) {I’ve read}, The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett {one of my favorite movies of all time} and a few others.

{image via happythings.tumblr.com/}


Listening to Tracy Kidder

On Thursday, I was lucky enough to hear Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder speak about his most well-known book, Mountains Beyond Mountains. I read this book a few years ago and it was such an incredible, uplifting story told through brilliant writing that I could never be able to fully describe how much it moved me. The book revolves around the life of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard-trained doctor who has dedicated his life to working with patients with infectious diseases in third-world countries. Note that I wrote he works with patients and not the diseases. His commitment to the public good and making an impact on the world’s people is what, I feel, separates Farmer from many others in his profession.

As you’re reading this book, you’ll no doubt be preoccupied with a journalist’s skepticism, “what’s the catch with Paul Farmer?” But as you’ll discover, he IS just too good to be true. I am incredibly elated that I got the chance to hear such a talented writer discuss his most-famous book. {Here's another great interview of Kidder.}

I think it’s a bit funny that you can see the differences between one of my friends and I just by mentioning Mountains Beyond Mountains. We both read and absolutely loved the book. But she, as a public health student, saw Dr. Paul Farmer speak in Washington D.C. and I, as a writer, saw Tracy Kidder speak. It’s funny, huh?

I’ve also read Kidder’s Strength in What Remains about a Burundian man who escaped the Rwandan genocide, faced insurmountable odds as a homeless foreigner in New York and now works with Partners in Health, Paul Farmer's creation, to bring health care to Burundi and other areas and Among Schoolchildren which follows a fifth-grade teacher in Holyoke, Mass. as she attempts to effect her students in positive, lasting ways.

As Kidder discussed his book, he said, “My goal was to find a good story and tell it as well as I could.” He did. If you have not read any of Tracy Kidder’s books, you must. They are simply incredible.

Also, I congratulate Northwestern on their One Book One Northwestern community-building project. It is a great program that brings together students and staff around a single book and issue. Through this One Book One Northwestern selection students are introduced to new issues and encouraged to become socially responsible citizens and active volunteers. I applaud the effort and think this method should be used more often at universities and high and middle schools also.

{image via tracykidder.com}


Bookman's Alley

As you all know, I'm a book nut. I could spend entire days in coffee shops reading or the library browsing. I've actually been known to spend afternoons at Barnes & Noble where I leave with one book and a list of 20 more that I want to read.

Barnes & Noble is great, but it lacks the personality, character and dusty book bindings that I think all bookstores need. The other day I stopped at my favorite {used} bookstore of all time, Bookman's Alley in Evanston, Ill.. You can see by the pictures just how incredible it is. The store, about five rooms linked together, is scattered with odd artifacts, interesting artwork and cluttered with new and old books. I simply adore the stacks of books, journals, postcards and more that cover tables throughout the shop. The handwritten genre designations and slightly confusing organization {or lack thereof} make finding a a book feel like a treasure hunt and a real accomplishment. But mostly, it's fun to sit down in a random section of the store and get lost in the books.

If they served coffee, it might very well be my favorite place ever.

{Sorry the photos are a little blurry. I didn't have my actual camera with me.}

10 things that made my week

spending the weekend with of my favorite persons ever
visiting an odd, eclectic bookstore
playing Bananagrams, yet again
catching up on missed TV shows: Glee esp.
making vacation plans with friends
seeing Tracy Kidder speak about his books
trains rides with a good book
finally seeing a good movie in the theater
Rwandan coffee {yum, thanks Jessi}
playing trivia with friends {even if we did lose}

{image via weheartit}

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