Things I’m loving right now

I was offline for the past week while I was with Camp Kesem. Camp Kesem (a camp for children whose parents or primary caregivers have been affected by cancer) is one of the nonprofits I grew particularly attached to over the past couple of years, and I volunteer for them one week per year as a counselor for the 14-16 year old campers. This year was just as spectacularly amazing and life-changing as it was last year. I already had a year of experience with Camp Kesem so I thought I was mentally prepared, but again I was blown away by the campers. When they have every right in the world to be selfish and focus on their own difficulties, they are some of the most caring, generous and fun people I have ever met. There’s nothing quite like that warm fuzzy feeling after camp when the magic hits you.

Now that I’m all settled in at home again, I’ve returned my focus to the job hunt and post-grad life. While writing cover letters isn’t the most enjoyable thing in the world, I get pretty fired up thinking about the future and all the different opportunities I have ahead of me. I’m really enjoying this stage of life that I’m in. It’s totally flexible and could be anything at this point. I know that kind of uncertainty might make some people anxious, but I’m enjoying it. It gives me a lot of chances to follow my dad’s favorite piece of advice, “the sky is the limit.” Sidenote: I realize that there is a lot beyond the sky. In fact, the vast majority of everything is outside the reach of our planet. However, I still appreciate the spirit of the phrase that has motivated me since I was a little girl. And the jobs I am applying for happen to be within the limit of the sky.

I wanted to share a few of the things that I’m loving right now. I love being able to find joy and beauty in the little things. When that happens, I love telling my friends, or the whole internet in this case.

1. There’s a lot of awesome music in the world right now. Here are some of the tracks I’m listening to.

2. Maple View Farms chocolate milk. Ohhhh it’s so yummy. Chocolate milk is usually one of my favorite treats and theirs is especially creamy and delicious. (Like everything else they produce)

3. I’ve had a lot more time to cook from scratch. Thanks, Pinterest for these great recipes! I recommend them to anyone who likes food, even a little bit. I was really inspired by all the French, Italian and Greek cuisine when I returned from the trip with my sister, so I loved finding this recipe for the vinaigrette found on every salad in France, as well as homemade mayonnaise. You know there is truly no substitute if you’ve ever had it. I also brought back a box of macaron mix that I’m saving for later (I know! *hisses* Pre-made mixes, sacrilege. But this one was carried home from France so it’s okay, right?). All my travels helped me realize just how common processed food is in America, and how much more delicious it is to keep recipes to the essentials. It’s hard to beat something as simple as a homemade loaf of bread with olive oil with freshly-ground pepper. Simple, but certainly not plain. Also, let me just say that the Greek have a way with iced coffee. Other recipes I’m loving:
· Chickpea, Feta and Parsley Salad I found this one at Weaver Street Market and immediately searched for a copycat when I got home
· Kale Salad with Pine Nuts and Cranberries It might be a little faddish with the kale, but yummy regardless
· Eggs Benedict Brunch lovers, unite! Bonus points for homemade English muffins
· Green Goddess Sandwiches Lunch has just been changed forever
· Ranchero Breakfast Tostadas Anything with black beans, yes please

4. Breaking in my new running shoes. They might hurt my knees right now…I definitely should get some inserts, but still, there’s something fun about new shoes. There’s whole new world of adventure out there! And my feet are ready.

5. It’s not a million degrees outside anymore. Granted, there is always the notorious North Carolina September heat wave, but I’m enjoying the weather right now.

6. Working from my front porch

7. Rediscovering some of my mom’s old blankets with some awesome retro designs

8. I have time to do a lot of writing, like this!


LLWOC: On Freshman Year

For my last last week of class (LLWOC), I’ve decided to dedicate each of the four days to reminiscing about each of the four years. Yesterday, Monday, was freshman year. So all day, the only music I listened to was from the time period of August 2010 and May 2011. Music, like scent, is one of those powerful things that can instantly transport you to a moment of time. In listening to these songs, I was carried through a lot of those little moments that slipped my mind, and it was really nice.

Last Friday Night, Cooler Than Me: Remember when these were the popular, overplayed songs on the radio? Hah!

The Lucky Ones: I thought I was pretty cool for discovering this singer-songwriter all on my own. I bought the whole album and listened to it often while making the 20-minute trek from good ol’ Craige to north campus. Gosh I can see it so clearly right now. Making a left out of my suite, down two flights of stairs, passing the magnolia leaves on the ground and sketchy bridge leading to the Manning/Ridge intersection, emerging out of the parking lot, waiting for the light outside Craige North, hating every single stupid loud beep from the crosswalk sign, climbing past Hardin and Morrison, through Rams, down Stadium, across South, and arriving to class thoroughly sweaty and out of breath. But I really loved that album. It was so soothing and seemed perfectly appropriate for my first year at UNC. Then, at a Clef Hangers concert when they were calling out alumni in the audience and they said Brendan James’ names, it all made sense.

Just The Way You Are, Misery, Fader, Black & Gold, Little Lion Man, Magic, Impossible: These are songs performed by a cappella groups that year. Shout out to the Achordants, Loreleis and Clef Hangers! After Sunset Serenade, a free a cappella concert on the quad the first week of classes, I was hooked. I became such an a cappella junkie. Not that I’m a particularly gifted singer myself, I just really loved hearing the groups perform together and make my favorite songs even better. When I first heard the Achordants sing Fader, I probably looked like Buddy the Elf meeting Santa Claus. My favorite song, sung by really cool people? Sounding even better? Best day ever! I was secretly one of the Achordants best fans for a while, not missing a single concert until junior year. I also made it to Clef Hangers, Loreleis, Cadence, Tar Heel Voices and Tarpeggios concerts over the years. They were all awesome. Just awesome.

Stereo Love, We R Who We R, Till The World Ends, No Hands, All Of The Lights, Driving Me Crazy: Ahh, yes. The songs of late night freshman year. The frat parties and the dorm rooms. I very clearly remember We R Who We R being the song I got ready to for my first Franklin Street Halloween experience. I remember Sammy Adams came to Lambda Chi that year for a concert. I didn’t actually get to go, but my suitemates did so I got to listening to his stuff. The rest of it, no good explanation. Bad music just happens sometimes.

Never Gonna Leave This Bed: This is the other hallmark album I associate with freshman year. I will only buy an entire album if I love every single song. And that was the case with this one. This song is still one of my all-time top favorites. I listened to this album so so much that year.

White Winter Hymnal, Your Ex-Lover Is Dead, Home: These songs are part of a moment halfway through freshman year. A couple of my friends lived in Morrison, so I was over there all the time. One night when we were in the lobby, they broke out a couple guitars and we started jamming. It didn’t matter if your voice was raspy or you didn’t know the lyrics. I think there were 7-8 of us. It all felt so natural and comfortable. It was a really good group of people and a great night. A lot of the time I spent with that group involved music actually; it’s something engrained in who they are and part of why I loved spending time with them.

The Show Goes On: I clearly remember this being a warmup song during my first ever Carolina basketball game. It was UNC vs. NC State. We won. It was awesome.

Life in Technicolor ii, I’m In Love, Teenage Wasteland: These are my freshman year UNC Dance Marathon songs. Life in Technicolor ii played in the background of a For the Kids story video, and from then on I associated this song with the organization and everything I love about it. Even this year I had it as the sound for alarms for UNC-DM events on my phone. I’m In Love is a song I remember being played at setup, as I was seeing it all come together for the first time. I don’t remember a lot from my first dance marathon– the earlier ones blend together– but I definitely remember that song and seeing my friends so excited to dance for 24 hours together. Teenage Wasteland. Ahh, the single song with the ability to make me emotional at the press of a button. This is the song that plays while the Executive Board reveals, one by one, the numbers that create the year’s fundraising total. I’ve written a lot about dance marathon, so you know how much it means to me already. I’ll just say the first time I saw the balloons drop after revealing the number was one of those eye-opening events that made me see things differently, permanently.

Such a happy little freshman

Such a happy little freshman

If I had known how much my decisions that year would come to affect who I am now, I think I would’ve been more deliberate about them. But then again, I’m glad I had no idea. I definitely heard people telling me that advice, but if I had taken the time to really grasp what all my decisions would come to mean, I’m sure it would’ve been a much more stressful year. Don’t get me wrong, parts of that year definitely were stressful. I was pre-med then, taking chemistry and biology classes way more difficult than I enjoyed at the time. I went through rush and joined a sorority. I was on the club field hockey team. I was in UNC-DM, Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, and trying out a few other clubs. All things considered though, I was having a blast.

The first two weeks of UNC, from Carolina Kickoff and moving in to classes getting real, were two really awesome weeks. Coming from a small, nerdy high school where I wasn’t anyone spectacular, I was led to believe I was shy. I was incredibly nervous about being at such a big school. It was also my first time being completely on my own, in the sense of not being at the same school as my twin sister.  A place where I could be Renee, not “Michelle’s twin.” I don’t mean this at all in a negative way toward my sister. I only mean that having my own space to grow like UNC did a lot for my individuality and knowing who I am and what I stand for. The first two weeks I found out that I was actually a social person, and I loved meeting new people. More so than the people around me did. It was totally unexpected and I was loving it. That freshman mentality, when everyone is a potential best friend, is so valuable.  I was getting an early start on my bucket list and doing quintessential UNC things like getting YoPo with friends and riding a full circle on the P2P because at that time it was a wonderful, amazing system, so convenient for transporting students across campus. (Hah.)

It was a great first year. I found my niche and got into a groove. I met a ton of awesome people and got started on things that would grow in significance later. I started to love this school despite my initial hesitation.

Post about sophomore year next!


Bucket List

There are 25 days between me and graduation. How have these four years passed already? Part of me recognizes that a lot has happened between now and 2010 that couldn’t possibly have taken less than four years, but part of me says no way, I just started this.

It isn’t time for me to write a love letter to UNC. Not yet. I’m still here. For now, I’ll share the things I have left to do. I’ve crossed off a good number of items from my list already, but there are few left. Everyone is welcome to join in and help me cross them off!

  • Update my resume and portfolio — they’re way past out of date. Oh.
  • Country night — apparently this is a thing here. I’ve never been and have been told it’s a necessity. Help.
  • Maple View ice cream at sunset in a porch rocking chair — okay, so I have done this before. But, again! As if I really need an excuse, psh.
  • Dames chicken and waffles — Being a Southern school and stuff
  • Diamond heels game — because obviously
  • Sit on the quad between classes — I really don’t understand how I haven’t already done this.
  • Hammocking in the arboretum
  • Play in Bynum fountain
  • Sutton’s counter lunch
  • Ye Olde (again)
  • Planetarium show
  • Various brunch spots: 411 West, R&R, Mint, Kipos
  • Crunkleton Beesting
  • Jordan Lake
  • Fridays on the Front Porch
  • Get lunch/coffee with some of my professors
  • Climb the Bell Tower
  • Take senior portraits
  • Oh, order my cap and gown I guess

Any other suggestions? What was the most UNC thing you’ve ever done?


Marathon week!

So there are three days until this event that I’ve been sort of kind of involved in making happen for the past year or whatever.

The largest student fundraiser on campus or in North Carolina.

The single largest donor to North Carolina Children’s Hospital.

Totally calm.

My to-do list is kind of all around me: random artboards in Illustrator, Executive Board meeting minutes, my iPhone notes, sticky notes on my desk, written on my hand, class notes, task list in gmail, Google docs. Really just whatever is closest. I did retrace my steps and compile everything on a few sheets of paper Monday; that helped. Feeling good. Things are happening. Media is responding, graphics are going up, flyers being printed, videos being published, newsletter sent out. Committee members have their tasks for Friday and Saturday. Ready!

What I’m not ready for: this ending. Standing on stage at 7:20 p.m., standing with 13 friends in blue polos, flipping up a poster with a single digit, my number in the final fundraising total reveal. Jumping around and watching the balloons drop. Taking it all in as 2,000 students see the larger impact of their efforts — something that we made possible with this event. How do you let go of something that has played such a large role in shaping who you are and driven a lot of your decisions for the past four years?

That moment isn’t the end, but it is the beginning of the end. After that, we’ll release wrap-up and celebratory publicity in the coming weeks and transition to next year’s Executive Board. Then I let go. Two weeks and I let go.

Luckily my to-do list is long enough to distract me at least for a week. [Side note: I’ll be on the radio doing a live interview about UNC-DM today! Tune into WCHL 97.9 at 4:40 p.m.] I don’t have to think about it until then. But it’s definitely in the back of my mind. I’ve been getting sentimental at every little thing– the last marathon committees meeting, learning my last committee dance, watching the bucket list video, responding to media requests about what UNC Dance Marathon means to me.

I encourage everyone reading this post to visit us at the 16th annual UNC Dance Marathon this Friday and Saturday from 7:30 p.m. Friday to 7:30 p.m. Saturday. This organization has been the single involvement that has most shaped who I am and what I want to do after graduation. Being a part of it and having the opportunity to serve on the Executive Board this year has been a huge honor, and something I wouldn’t trade for anything. I would love to share it with anyone even remotely interested. Let me know if you plan on coming!


a helipad of an adventure

Yesterday the Executive Board got to take a tour around a few of the UNC Hospitals, including the roof! We learned about the air care team and how Tar Heel 1 and Tar Heel 2 (the helicopters) work with patients around the state. After that, we toured the 1st floor general clinic, 2nd floor peds surgeries, 5th floor hem/onc and 7th floor with the play atrium. We also got to peek inside the PICU and NICU. I’ve been on the same hospital tour before, but this time was different. As a member of the Executive Board, I could point out all of the different areas that UNC Dance Marathon touches the hospital and is able to provide help to the patients and families. The residents who led the tour said they and the rest of the staff really appreciate everything we do. It’s amazing to think about how much goes on in the hospital, even right now as I’m sitting in my room and typing. The work that UNC-DM does affects so many people we may never know or realize, and I am so proud to be a part of it.


A helipad of an adventure