Tag Archives: Wisconsin


9 Feb

I don’t certainly dislike college basketball, but I’d never admit to any stirring of passions.  Keep it on if you will, change the channel, I’m cool either way.

I will, however, say my favorite thing of today was watching my partner geek out over getting to watch the Wisconsin vs. Michigan State game, live-streamed on an actual real live t.v.  He get’s way more into it and giggles like you wouldn’t believe. And, with a two-point shot for the win in the last two seconds, I was even kind of liking it, too.

image (3)

The day what belongs to the day–At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.     – Walt Whitman


College: Day 14

14 Nov

Daily Prompt: Revisionist History

by michelle w. on November 14, 2012

Go back in time to an event you think could have played out differently for you.

Let alternate history have its moment: tell us what could, would or should have happened?

I need to tell you, I was a total geek growing up.

One prime example: when I was nine, I tried to teach myself German from my dad’s old college textbook.  I spent hours copying text examples and conjugating verbs in a green notebook I cleverly deemed, “My German Textbook’s Notebook.”

When I think back on it now, I was pretty stinking good.  Though I probably didn’t pronounce things the right way, I did successfully teach myself most of the numbers, the alphabet, basic greetings, a few naughty words that the book included which I found hilarious, and a few other random useful phrases.

To say the least, I loved book learning.  And I still do.  I would choose working individually, reading 50 pages and filling out essay and workbook questions ANY DAY over having to work on a partner assignment and create some “fun” presentation. Woof. And, I am probably the one person for whom rote memorization is the best possible learning strategy.  I could copy and repeat assignments until the cows come home.

As a child, going to college wasn’t just something that was encouraged and admired in my family, it was personally a deep, passionate demand.  I needed to go to college.  I had dreams of sitting with my little glasses and a big suitcase, arguing in a huge lecture halls and getting coffee with others and filling dozens of notebooks with brilliance.

My poor innocence.  I shudder to think what might have happened if I told her about this, which essentially represents most of my college experience:


And, that’s just a PG picture I felt comfortable sharing.

Sure, we often did some… hanging around… but I also studied my ass off.  I may not have carried around a gigantic briefcase full of questions about the universe (which was probably for the best), but I engaged myself in outrageously stimulating dialogues, discovered more about my place in this world, and developed a structured intellect that has pushed me further than I ever thought possible.

Now I just sound like a terrible television ad promoting my alma mater.

And, I guess, in a sense, I am.

While I think I’ve touched on my slightly pretentious views on regret and my attempts to avoid it at all costs, one thing I do return to with relative frequency is my choice of school.

When I was 14 my brother and I went with our parents on a trip out to the Washington, D.C. area.  You could have made a National Lampoons vacation out of the trip.  I mean, there were not nearly as many crazy uncles nor hostage situations, but we visited every landmark, museum, park, and mini-adventure locale possible. One afternoon, we visited the University of Virginia and strolled around the surrounding campus.

I was in love.

It seemed to me like all my childhood visions of “college” captured and put into one perfect little universe.  I saw real life college kids walking around with books in their hands, and laying out on a campus mall, and big, old buildings that I imagined were bursting with histories and answers.

From then on, whenever I thought of going off to college, I always imagined myself heading to Virginia and becoming just like those students.

And when it came time to apply to universities, I was ready.  I have always done really well in school and high school was no exception.  I by no means wish to brag about having any sort of better smarts than others.  But I loved doing assignments, and keeping track of them in planners, and getting help on nearly every math sheet ever assigned and talking with others, and checking things off “to do” lists, and buying new school folders and notebooks and typing up papers and… you get the picture.

I always worked my butt off – and I was never really embarrassed about it, which I’m always secretly impressed by.

I looked at a lot of different schools, Virginia included.  Seventeen year old Liv knew a bit more about student loans than the doe-eyed visitor to D.C., and only a little way in to the application process, I just sort of gave up.

What would life have been like had I not been so afraid of that gigantic world?  I am really proud of UW – Eau Claire (go Blugolds!), though I can’t help but wonder.

But, when I start imagining how different life would have been like, I never get much further than imagining my first semester or so.  And, here’s where it gets a bit sappy, I just can’t imagine life without my dear partner.  I really doubt we would ever have crossed paths.  I mean, sure, there’s destiny, but he was such a part of my college life (along with the Cameo, Mad Dog, my closest friends, and FAFSA), I just can’t imagine –  nor would want to imagine -my undergraduate experience any other way.

I mean, how can you compete with Wisconsin?


Living In Tents: Day 6

6 Nov

Day Six – I tried it in poem fashion because… why not.

Daily Prompt

by michelle w. on November 6, 2012

Take a subject you’re familiar with and imagine it as three photos in a sequence.  Tackle the subject by describing those three shots.

in the first, you can easily pick out the girl,
her tangled mass of mousy brown hair sticks straight out of the sleeping bag
one of two pigtails still holding strong, the other lost somewhere during the day’s outdoor adventures.
but on closer inspection, there’s another warm little body inside,
tucked beneath the scabby-elbowed arm of the girl.
only a rosy, round cheek, the very top of a small boy’s head
and one perfect, little thumb
remain visible in the blue glow of the domed tent
the second – a staged shot – lines three  tanned and smiling siblings
under a brown weather-worn sign.
this shot, a favorite in the family, repeats itself
in countless wooded havens
each a passport stamp in their own right,
a declaration for themselves and others:
“we were here.”
the last brings in two more bronzed faces
each with responsibly crowded fanny packs.
band-aids, water bottles, bug spray, snacks –
everything but the kitchen sink comes along with the
five on their treks.
and as four sit evenly spaced  on a fallen log
with broad smiles and nearly audible giggles even in print,
one laughing face is frozen mid-step, half a pace away from the rest.
try as he might – and they do this all the time –
they can never quite seem to beat the timer,
knocking off the seconds faster than they
can ever seem to snatch them up.


Central Asia (!) (?)

27 Jun

I know nothing about Central Asia.

Correction: I know little about Central Asia.  As my dear friend told me, “Hey, you can point it out on a map!  That’s good, right?”   So true. After Googling the phrase “Central Asia, ”  here is what I now know:

  • It stretches from the Caspian Sea to China, from Afghanistan to Russia
  • In modern contexts, it typically includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.  Sometimes included are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet, and Siberia
  • It acts as a crossroads for the movement of people, goods, and ideas between Europe, West Asia, South Asia, and East Asia

You all officially know as much or more about Central Asia than I, though I have to admit I am Wikipedia-ing and researching at an astounding rate.

When we first received our Peace Corps emails noting an estimated region and departure date, my train of reaction went as follows:

1. The “ecstatic, pee-my-pants, holy-shit-we-are-nominated” stage. (“AHHH!!!  YESSS!!!! CENTRAL ASIA!!!!”)

2. The “jump-up-and-down-with-Mollie then call-Matthew-and-process-this” stage. (“WHOA!  YES! CENTRAL ASIA”!)

3. The “let’s-get-ahold-of-Mum-and-Dad-and then figure-out-what-Central-Asia-actually-means” stage. (HEY! Central Asia!”)

4. The “okay, this-is-actually-happening” stage. (“Ahhh, Central Asia!”)

5. The “let’s-begin-planning-though-we-don’t-know-much” stage. (“Ah, Central Asia?”)

6. The “we-have-lots-of-time-that’s-running-out-but-full-of-life” stage. (“Okay, Central Asia? Okay!”)

I think I’ll be stalled in stage six for quite some time.  I have been dreaming of joining the Peace Corps for so many years that being at this moment seems almost unreal.

I must be frank: in none of these dreams was I living in Central Asia.  But by no means do I wish that to sound critical or aghast or negative.  It’s really that in the paradigm of my little world, I hear on the news much about Latin America and Europe; I am relatively fluent in Spanish; I have discussed with several individuals their life stories of living in Northern Africa; I read a lot of blogs about members serving in South America and Eastern Europe.  While I am aware of it’s existence, I know such a ridiculously small amount about Central Asia.

Yet, while there were definitely moments – like, between stages 2-5 – where I was incredibly anxious, I am officially more excited than I ever thought possible.  While I’d like to say I heard this from a powerful speaker at some fancy soiree, I actually found this in an even better locale, the inside of a Quick Wok fortune cookie: “If Your Dreams Don’t Scare You, They Are Not Big Enough (your lucky numbers: 3  5  17  23  41).”

I think this dream is growing.  Central Asia may be on the outskirts of what I have considered, but that makes the prospect of living our lives on this stage even more incomprehensibly astounding.  How amazing is it that I will have the opportunity to expand my knowledge and understanding even further?  How glorious to learn so much about something I currently know so little about!

While we now know we will be leaving sometime in April for a country in this region, we most likely will not know specifics beyond that until probably January.  Next, we need to have our medical clearance and legal clearance.  And, good news for those of us with puny insurance: they have changed quite a bit of the medical requirements, so it seems our clearance process won’t be nearly so extensive (or costly! hooray!)

So, though this is a giant leap for Nelson-kind in the right direction, we are still more-or-less where we were a few weeks ago.  And, I am still pushing hard on my goals.

First, I am doing a pretty dang good job of cooking more and eating healthier.  I made a delicious home-made tomato soup and grilled provolone, summer vegetable and toasted wheat bread sandwiches just this evening!  Also, I have added to this goal: I am going to run a marathon.  While some family members who shall remain nameless scoffed in my general direction, I am in earnest.  This is something I have thought about before, but again came to me just this morning while eating some M&M’s (whoops.) I have started training (okay, so I ran today) and it is awesome.  I have a schedule all set, a race location and date, and will be the most b.a., healthiest O. Nelson you have ever seen.

Next, goal two of expanding horizons and volunteering has been going swimmingly.  I have had my second Monday working on the organic farm, and I must say I am in love.  Though the outdoors and I have made coy eye contact and flirted with one another in the past, this time I think we are in it for a committed, compassionate twosome.  I will report again next Monday, after which I have been promised the chance to broad field a new bed and learn about salve (whatever any of that means.)

Thirdly, last Friday I was able to explore a new state park with my sister (Interstate State Park) and have been going on long walks through my beloved EC as much as possible.  I cannot soak in enough of this beautiful weather in this beautiful state.

Fourth, I have been having a wonderful time spending quality moments with my friends and family.  I was so fortunate to hang out with my sister this past Friday, and though we were attacked by killer mosquitoes, we had an awesome hike and a wonderful dinner.  I also was able to spend Saturday with my dearest friends and little brother celebrating birthdays, beer, beaches, and more beer.  And late night Toppers.

In other news, my AmeriCorps job is no more.  I will not fret about it anymore, but I am still writing nasty letters to certain Wisconsin politicians.  While I am selfishly really bummed, as it was the perfect position with many great opportunities, I am more concerned for the community outreach programs that lost thousands of dollars in funding.  Here is not the time for political rants, but if you ever want to swing by, I have lots of gin and we can angrily rant with one another.

So, I am now on the job hunt for something to push me along until December.  Worst case scenario, I return to subbing, which isn’t really all that terrible. Though not entirely pleasant.  We’ll see.

This seems sufficient life news for now.  I will continue to push myself to stage 7 – though I do not know quite what that will entail – and work on my building goals.  Until then, here’s what I think one Mr. Whitman would add to this discussion:

I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames, clack of sticks cooking my meals,
I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,
I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following.
I hear the chorus, it is a grand opera,
Ah this indeed is music – this suits me.
At length, let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,
And that we call Being. 
 – Walt Whitman

status update

17 Jun

Our last check in was May 15th;  though we have yet to hear the best news of a place and time, we have taken numerous baby steps on our road to becoming volunteers.

To begin, here’s a quick snapshot of this past month, in numbers:


Number of volunteering activities we have explored to boost our knowledge and give some lovin’ back to EC: 7

Blogs I have obsessively read regarding current volunteers/application process/PC in general: 16

Teaching jobs received: 1

New recipes explored to become a better, more sustainable, knowledgeable, healthy chef:  5

Times I have thought about future (hopeful) Peace Corps placement: 104 (give or take a few dozen)

Weekends we have used our tent to explore Wisconsin before we leave for who-knows-how-long: 4 out of 4

Number of Peace Corps application status updates: 1!

One glorious beautiful update!

Though we have yet to find out when and where, we have officially –  according to our online application status –  been nominated as Peace Corps volunteers. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

To be frank, while this is stunning, amazing, beautiful, glorious news – and without sounding overly confident – we had kind of already assumed we were still in consideration and moving forward.  As our interview was a month ago, we stuck to the ol’ “no news is good news” theory of life; as we hadn’t yet been told we were not being considered for nomination (in other words, that we were just not good candidates) we assumed that we would be in, but just didn’t know where.

At this point, we are still waiting to find out where, but I am beyond pumped to see that it is pretty official! In our contacts with our recruiter, it seems that their office will be placing qualified and suitable applicants for positions over the next few weeks.  In our previous 3 days to 3 month timeline, we still have nearly two months, so I’m banking that getting more specific information will not be happening anytime crazy soon.

As many of you may know, I am kind of impatient.  And by kind of impatient, I mean maniacally impatient.  I have bad road rage when people drive slowly and rather stupidly; as a child (and, okay, maybe now as an adult) I would search around for my Christmas presents, and often unwrap them and play with them and then wrap them back up; I Google the ends of movies because I just can’t not know what happens; I always read the end of books a chapter or so in so I know how to prepare myself; I may or may not have gotten one or two speeding tickets; I eat really crunchy noodles because boiling is just a horrifyingly poky process; sometimes my clothes are damp because, let’s face it, dryers cannot keep up with me.

Obviously, this waiting and waiting and waiting does not bode well with my lifestyle.  And as I cannot change this situation, I clearly must need to change my lifestyle.  Which, I have!

I have developed a new set of goals to help push me through time until I accomplish my biggest life goal.  While this is a growing list, here’s what’s happening in the life of one O. Nelson:

Goal one: Cook more, and cook better

I wouldn’t say I am a poor cook, I just don’t cook.  The other day my charming mother sent me a message with a plaque she had found:

Ha. Ha.  When we do end up leaving, I know that I will not be able to call up Quick Wok and order Moo Goo Gai Pan on a Tuesday night, nor should I.  I like to cook, and I want to feel confident that I am eating appropriately and can create a great meal for myself and others.   And I am making progress!  On Friday, FROM SCRATCH, I made shrimp and chicken gumbo, with green chili cornbread – also from scratch.  And it was kinda fun.  I might just become a foodie, yet.

Goal two: Volunteer more, and expand our horizons

 Our recruiter encouraged us to work on getting hours in different areas as to make ourselves more competitive and applicable to other environments.  As I have a variety of teaching/tutoring experiences, she suggested I look into both agriculture and health-related opportunities.  Starting tomorrow, I will be working at a local CSA to get some farming knowledge, and I am as happy as a pig in a mud puddle.  Up until this point in life, I have limited experience in agriculture.  And though I am not quite sure exactly what I will be doing yet (it seems a lot of weeding and eventually harvesting), I am really looking forward to getting more hands-on, helping out, and gaining some skills.  (An update on this will hopefully follow soon.)

Goal three: Spend more time exploring Wisconsin (and maybe a bit beyond…)

I am constantly obsessed with the idea of traveling and exploring the world and learning everything and anything, and yet I often fail to see all that is right here in our beautiful state.  Matthew and I both love camping, and now, for the first time since I was 15 years old, I FINALLY have weekends off!  It is practically incomprehensible.  We have already taken full advantage of our new found freedom and have hit up three state parks in the past four weeks.  Someday I will write a lovely novel on growing up with my family camping every weekend, as it bordered on obsessive, and I am so happy to finally get back into the swing of pitching up our tent, hiking, roasting s’mores, sitting around the campfire, and reading in the glorious sunshine (and rain – it always rains when we go camping).  Before we (hopefully!) head out of the country, I want to explore all the great regions and activities Wisconsin has to offer.  I wanted to make this a nation-wide goal, but fiscally and temporally, I figured Wisconsin would remain a solid target (and there is just so much to do!)

Goal four: Spend more time with friends and family

While there are many aspects of serving in the Peace Corps I can’t help but think about nearly non-stop, the one thing I have been avoiding is the thought of being away from those we care about for so long.  I know that in the big picture, the pros outweigh the cons, but I love these people.  A lot. Really, really a lot. The thought of missing any important moment in their lives cuts me up inside.  I have been trying to convince myself to breath, and know that great friends will always remain great friends, no matter the time or distance.  As a relatively recent grad, I have already been losing some great college buddies I thought would never leave.  The sad fact of the matter is cliched but true: if people want to remain in your life, they will make the time.  And sometimes – hopefully – it works.  And I never want to step back and realize I failed to make the connection to keep people close.  I will not wish this time away for anything; as anxious as I am to leave, I want to soak up every moment with those I adore.

And that is goal four.

So, here we are.  Hopefully big news will arrive soon, but if not – little news on keeping goals alive will.

Until then, enjoy these words from my lover, as they seem applicable and pertinent (as always):

Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore,
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer, 
To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout, and laughingly dash with your hair.
– Walt Whitman


4 May

Hallelujah for employment!

As we have been in this process, I have had a heck of a time figuring out what to do with myself for this upcoming school year.  Since finishing my teaching internship in January, I have been teaching in two local school districts, which has been just as exhausting as it has been exciting.  I have come to love substitute teaching far more than I thought I would, and I cannot even explain how much more confident I am in front of students.


Great as it can be, I am not always guaranteed a teaching position; some weeks it’s every day in a new class, and others I squeeze three in and am grateful.  I wanted to find something more secure for next school year, but with the Peace Corps our dominant focus these next few months, it made planning a challenge.

There is an awesome position at my favorite school in the whole wide world opening up this next school year.  Working with this staff and these students is honestly my dream goal.

And it can happen… someday.  But, that day is not today.

Lamentable decision though it was, I ultimately couldn’t turn in my application, because life is about taking chances.  Let me be nerdy English teacher for a moment and share part of my favorite poem in the whole wide stinking world from my lover Walt Whitman:

However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient
this dwelling we cannot remain here,
However shelter’d this port and however calm these waters
we must not anchor here,
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we are
permitted to receive it but a little while.//
You but arrive at the city to which you were destin’d, you
hardly settle yourself before you are call’d
by an irresistible call to depart.

I absolutely, positively know I made the right decision, because as I continued to explore opportunities, I stumbled across an AmeriCorps position here in Eau Claire!

I applied, interviewed, and was offered a  position coordinating “special programs”  through the Marshfield Clinic AmeriCorps and the Boy Scouts of America.  As a former Cub Scout, I am beyond elated to put together so many of my passions.

The AmeriCorps is fabulous, as it is the domestic Peace Corps partner, and (I believe) will help make us more competitive as candidates.  In this job, I will (to the best of my knowledge) help coordinate volunteers for after school tutoring programs, find speakers and develop lesson plans, work on campus with at-risk students to find them college buddies, teach an after school program at the high school, help establish Boy Scout and Venturer activities… amongst other scattered projects.


I couldn’t be more pleased.  It is really a great position, and I am so truly lucky to have it.

I also found out this week that I will be working with summer school students in the mornings.  As this AmeriCorps position does not begin until the school year starts over in September, I will have something related to work on during these summer months; hot dog!

While everything seems to be up in the air until we find out more about departure and all that jazz, and as much as I want to become a part of the awesome teaching community in Eau Claire, I know we are making the right decisions.  Every opportunity has fallen b-e-a-utifully into place.  I feel so relieved!

Now, just on to conquer that Chicago interview…


3 May

I can tell the weather is nice when, walking through our house, there are piles of laundry scattered around, dishes sitting by the sink, and just an overall not-quite-messy, but a really, really lived-in feel going on.  When the weather is beautiful, I am obsessed with the outdoors.  I cannot soak up enough sunshine or take too many walks through our neighborhood or sit on our stoop, drink a Leinies, and just be alive.

However, there comes a rainy day – like yesterday – when I am forced to come in, look at all that I’ve neglected, and realize that our house looks border-line Hoarders worthy, that these dishes are nasty, and that I must come to terms with the fact that, as much as I protest otherwise, I really am messy.

My mother, God bless that woman, always told me that I am something akin to a human tornado. Though I never meant to, I know that too often as a really strange child, I was so caught up in putting on the production of my youth – and daaaaamn was that a lively event – that I could walk into a spotless room and within a matter of seconds, my sneakers would find themselves kicked into the corner, a book would suddenly sprawl across the table, a poured a glass of lemonade would be finished and stuck somewhere completely unnecessary (with the jug still on the counter), and I would be dramatically sprawled onto the couch, exhausted by my own energy, and gazing intently at Little House on the Prairie, Saved by the Bell, Maury, or whatever other horrifying show was on TBS at that time – without even realizing the chaos I created.

I would protest needlessly that the mess was not my own –  “Those are not my shoes!”  “That glass was Theo’s!” “I don’t even know that book!”  – while my mother, in expletives worthy of any sailor, would threaten to make me eat up the mess if it was not picked up in ten seconds.  She’s amazing.

I was always so unjustifiably defiant.  I refused the claim of having things and putting those things in poorly chosen locations.  I didn’t want to admit to  being messy. 


Whether it is because I must grow up or that I’ve just grown wiser or maybe because I’ve had a lot of coffee this morning and am in an active, pleasant mood, I really think this mess is a great thing.  How lucky am I that I have so many possessions that they have places to belong and create clutter when all these great things are not where they “belong?”  How fab is it that I can have all these passions and interests to leave lying around in a house with a roof over my head and a kitchen and toilet paper and a sidewalk?

I like that I am messy, because while there is a mess, it means I am alive, and while I am alive I have a chance.  And that, my friends, is an awesome feeling.

I don’t want to be attached to this mess.  M and I plan on selling everything that is unnecessary before we leave and store only what has real personal value.  And as easy as that seemed to me at first, I am growing accustomed to these things because they really aren’t just things.They are the mess, and that mess is my life.

But, after the rainy day spent tidying up the nursery, the weather turns again to sunshine and I am out and running and exploring and taking pictures and I realize that I haven’t even thought about the things I have in the house.  This feeling outside is far more important than anything taking up space, and this feeling is what it really means to be alive.  And I know that when we head out to wherever life may take us on our Peace Corps journey, nothing will compare to the experiences we have.  I have no attachments stronger than the attachment to the energy of a powerful day with new people and new places.

Especially when the sun is shining.

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