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Life Without My Best Friend

I’ve been meaning to post something since my most recent trip home in late May. My first dog, Lou, was diagnosed with cancer in the lymph nodes back in November. We did everything we could, including spending a great deal of money on chemo treatments. And by some miracle, he survived and beat cancer. But we knew it would only buy us time before the inevitable. Of course, if he had been in pain or suffering we would have let him go. Apart from the cancer, he was a vivacious and loving pet. At 13 years old, he was as much a family member to us as our other relatives. I was so grateful for that extra time with him. Being away at school, I couldn’t come home often and I was heartbroken to hear about his disease when I couldn’t assure I’d see him again.

IMG_1781 In April, we received the news that his cancer was back. I planned a trip home for May and hoped for the best. Again, I was given an amazing chance to see my dog for a full week. While I was home, we almost put him down. We all said our goodbyes, tearfully drove to the vet, and gave Lou one last pet before entering the building. Once more, he proved to be stronger than anyone had hoped or thought. In a somewhat comical exchange, he stared each of us down in turn while the vet remarked that he was doing fine and as long as he seemed happy — he still had some time. It was embarrassing to leave the vet afterwards, Lou still wagging his tail and strutting about, but a wonderful gift for us all. IMG_4989 Only 2 to 3 days after I returned to Chicago, my current “home”, I received the news that my parents decided to put him down. His pain was clear at that point. Obviously I was upset, I mourn the loss of my best friend daily. I hope that we gave him the best possible life and that he never felt alone or unwanted. I love this 15 inch beagle more than I can explain. But having already accepted the loss when we went to the vet that day, I’m oddly at peace. The closure of that trip home resonates with me now. I am so incredibly grateful for whatever power kept him happy and alive so that I could have the opportunity to accept what was to come. I’m learning more and more about the fragility of our loved ones each day.

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In dealing with this recent loss and juggling a busy schedule — I’ve realized I’m only going through the motions of each day and not truly living them. It’s depressing to see how out of touch we are with our own happiness. Which is why, when I found an old DVD from high school of a musical production I was in, I popped it into the DVD player to reminisce. I watched myself up there, in miniature on the screen, wishing more than anything I could be that person now. But I know I wasn’t happy then, not really. What was moving to me, though, was to see how I was doing something that made me happy. Even if I wasn’t happy at that point in my life, I was striving for happiness by performing and singing. I miss that.

I know that the circumstances don’t allow for that now. My life is going in a different direction. But why shouldn’t I carry some of that with me?

Today I picked up my ukulele for the first time in months. After tuning it up, I found a song I wanted to learn, and dedicated an hour and a half to learning the chords and words. I didn’t warm up, I didn’t put on makeup or brush my hair. I didn’t really care about perfection. I uploaded my final take to Youtube, which I will embed below.

This isn’t the best cover. It’s not even my best work, I’m sure of it. But I can look at this and say I’m proud of myself and I feel capable and worthy. I know that by making that video I was doing something that brought me joy. Even if just for a few minutes, I felt content.

Here’s to enjoying life, pursuing happiness, and reveling in contentment.

Danielle

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What Next

It’s been a crazy few months to say the least. I forgot this blog even existed, but when I logged in just now I see that people have been viewing my page frequently in my absence. I’ll admit that made me a little giddy and also a bit embarrassed. I’m so sorry about failing at posting! I did re-read my last post, and unfortunately I’m not really keeping up with my resolution. BUT, this is only half true. I’ve been so insanely busy with 18 credit hours and a job taking up my weekends, that I haven’t had the cognitive space to keep track of whether my steps are enough or to go walk a bit when they are not. Of course, I’m going to try to work on actively meeting my goals. However, I started working as a server at a restaurant in January and have been averaging 15-20 thousand steps PER shift. So, I’d say I’m remaining active and I’m giving myself a bit of a break to take the bus or train when I’m busy rushing to class or appointments.

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First legal drink — thanks for accompanying me, Emma 🙂

11026116_871436369581764_4189579880919598760_n I also turned 21 in March. I still can’t quite grasp that, but it’s pretty cool to be able to buy my own liquor for a change. I had the opportunity to go home over my spring break and see my dogs, get my hair re-done, renew my license, and also see my childhood home for the last time. This was a big one and I’m not too big too admit that I did listen to “The House That Built Me” and sob a little when my mom wasn’t home. You can never understand the impact of a place until it’s time to say goodbye, this is something I became all too familiar with while in Rome. I still ache for the walk up to JFRC and the feeling of openness which is hard to find here in Chicago that Rome provided. In that same way, saying goodbye to the house that, in a way, built me was devastating. My parents had been trying to sell for months, and I’ve lived there since 1998 so after months of waiting I kept clinging on to hope that maybe they would end up keeping the house and not selling it. For that, I’m grateful to have went home one last time. IMG_4485 IMG_4486 As you can see, we got a new door. And I obviously grew. Moving forward, I’m excited to visit my parent’s new home. The next few weeks are going to be arduous and frankly I’m worried about making it through finals, although I feel like I have that mentality every semester and every time I prove myself wrong. I’m hopeful that there are great things in my future. I’m waiting to hear back about a fellowship offer and I’m a couple days away from my final class registration in undergrad. It’s insane that I’m going to be a college graduate by the end of 2015. I don’t know how these past three years went so quickly but it’s frightening thinking about moving on to a new chapter. For now I’m working hard every second to balance work, school, and a fragment of my social life (I apologize to my dear friends for being unavailable, I still love you all!) and maintain my sanity. The good news is that this is the worst semester of undergrad I have had and will have, so long as I can make it to May 4th I will be moving on to better things and a lighter load. It hasn’t been all bad though, I did get to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day downtown (before rushing to my job that afternoon) and got to see Jason Derulo with my friends. IMG_4609 IMG_4626IMG_4616    IMG_4595 If all goes well these next three weeks, I’ll probably post one of my infrequent blog posts updating on what’s going on. Right now I’m working on research for one of my past professors and will continue to do this during the summer, hopefully with the help of a fellowship, which is very exciting as its something I hope to do in my future for a career (research). Overall I’m just glad the snow is finally gone and everyday I’m closer to a well-deserved summer break. Ciao, Danielle

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Prayers and Pennies

Hello, all. I know that I don’t use this blog anymore, but I’ve been reaching out everywhere possible for a little help.

You can read more about the situation through the link, but my grandmother passed unexpectedly this weekend and I am struggling to cover costs to fly to San Diego and back so I’m asking everyone out “there” who may be able to help in any capacity.

 

Click the link, read a bit, and if you feel so inclined to donate I would be so happy and appreciative. 

http://www.gofundme.com/dz1s70

Thank you all. 

 

Ciao

 

http://www.gofundme.com/dz1s70

 

Here it is again 🙂

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Prayers and Pennies

Hello, all. I know that I don’t use this blog anymore, but I’ve been reaching out everywhere possible for a little help.

You can read more about the situation through the link, but my grandmother passed unexpectedly this weekend and I am struggling to cover costs to fly to San Diego and back so I’m asking everyone out “there” who may be able to help in any capacity.

 

Click the link, read a bit, and if you feel so inclined to donate I would be so happy and appreciative. 

http://www.gofundme.com/dz1s70

Thank you all. 

 

Ciao

 

http://www.gofundme.com/dz1s70

 

Here it is again 🙂

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Inside and Outside the Classroom

This post is beyond overdue, I believe these photos were taken the weekend of April 11th-13th. I had two projects to do, one for Italian which took me to Piazza del Popolo and the surrounding area, and one for Honors to the Jewish Museum of Liberation.

Rather than being an inconvenience, I love the opportunities I have here to see places which I can reference in my schoolwork as well as understand through class lectures. I am not in any on-site courses, but the benefits remain.

On the first day, I went by myself to the Museum of Jewish Liberation. This building, previously an apartment, was converted into a prison during the Second World War. Since then, it has been maintained and turned into a Museum. I went by myself and while I struggled with some of the signs (almost exclusively in Italian), it was free and enjoyable none the less.

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The Museum featured many newspaper clippings, propaganda ads, and photographs. This showed how the public was included in the implementation of racial politics in Italy (a focus of my paper).

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The cell pictured above was originally a closet, converted into a solitary cell. There was another just like it on the floor above. Walking into this tiny space, I could feel all the energy of what took place there. Coupled with messages, calendars, and information scratched into the paint on the walls, it was unsettling. I imagine I spent less than 2 minutes in that room because the claustrophobia and history of the place was so resonant.

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I later learned that these “windows” were not solely for the S.S. but also to allow for airflow in a crowded environment. Even the largest cells in this building were 10 by 10 rooms and its amazing to think how many people were crammed into these tiny spaces.

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Another moment of realization which stuck with me was when I saw the above photograph of corpses found at the Liberation of the apartment. After looking at the picture for a few moments I realized it was taken of the room I was standing in, hence the second photograph. I gained a lot of perspective from visiting this museum.

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I needed a moment to reflect and saw this beautiful scenery outside. It is shocking that this apartment, with all the terrible things occurring, could be nestled in a beautiful neighborhood without anyone intervening or feeling uncomfortable.

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One story told of a man sentenced to execution, who carved a message to his mother in his loaf of bread the night before. I’m not sure if she ever received the bread, but its still there and you can still see the carving. I can’t imagine how he must have been feeling, but even in that desperate time he was able to be resourceful and think of others.

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The following day, I went on a “scavenger hunt” (essentially) for my Italian class. It began at Piazza del Popolo and followed along Via del Babuino and onto Via Margutta where Federico Fellini (director of La Dolce Vita) lived, as well as where Roman Holiday was filmed.

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I had been to Piazza del Popolo before, but I enjoyed seeing this neighborhood later in the season as well as going on an independent adventure.

I will miss this part of Rome, but I hope to translate this motivation to Chicago and take more time to explore on my own (than I already do).

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Il Viaggio

Orientation has been slowly killing me. Jet lag, exhaustion from all the new information, and meeting new people have taken a much greater toll on me than I imagined they would.

My journey began with the stressful news that my Southwest Airlines flight had been cancelled-a mere 2 hours beforehand. Because I had to be at O’Hare that night, my parents and I scrambled to find a new flight and settled on a Delta flight. This flight was delayed a few minutes, but was otherwise pleasant, which I was so thankful for after the earlier mishap.

From O’Hare to Munich the real fun began. Those overnight planes are NOT fun. Especially when you are in Economy. I swear I would have given anything to switch into a First Class ticket, even that last minute. I did not sleep at all, it was freezing and super uncomfortable. The one plus was the sweet German flight attendants (especially this one man we had) and the amount of FOOD (really) and WINE (also, Really) that we were given throughout.

After landing in Munich I learned my first lesson in independence. Unsure where to head after stamping my passport, I went through a door and down. I soon realized I should have turned left. I had SKIPPED customs. I didn’t even know that was a possibility, but I used hand gestures to try to get someone in the airport to understand me.

Almost everyone told me to go through security and I was worried that I would be in trouble for skipping customs. Then the LOVELY TSA agent forced me to chug my water bottle (They do NOT pour these out for you in Europe) and make me look even more “American” and “classy”.

After speeding through security I found my group and made it onto the quick connecting flight. The final flight from Munich to Rome was fine, but by then I was feeling pretty sick of airplane food and craving fresh air.

We finally landed in Rome. After 23 hours in airport captivity (4 airports, 3 countries, 2 continents, 1 calendar day) I was free.

But things were just beginning. That night we registered all our information and ate dinner. I did get to go downtown, where we went to a nice Irish pub (The Abbey, Americanized but fun and pretty chill), and got lost on the way back. We did stumble across the Pantheon though, and I’m very proud of our group for navigating our way home from downtown the first night.

The next day I honestly can’t even remember because the whole thing was meetings and orientation activities. I also went out and ended up at the Abbey again.

Today we had more orientation, but at the end I went on a dinner in the neighborhood with my program to a nice Italian restaurant close to campus. The pasta is so unlike anything America could offer me. As a pasta fiend this fact makes me happy I chose Rome for study abroad. Italians spend time eating their food and drinking wine. We were at this restaurant from 7 until 10:30 pm but I felt so pleasantly full afterwards. I would highly recommend this experience.

I’ve also been juggling with getting my burner phone fixed and getting my hands on some shampoo since getting here. I accomplished both of these things today. Being able to finally wash my hair and having a working phone I can call home on make me feel so much less stressed.

It’s truly crazy to think that I am living in Rome for the next three and a half months, but I hope it hits me soon so that I can enjoy this experience fully. I already feel so thankful for this opportunity and know I’ll be back to Europe countless times in this lifetime.

Tomorrow we will be going to the Colosseum and I am very excited about this.

I’m planning on sending out some postcards, so let me know if you’re interested (;

I can also post my mailing address for family and friends and answer any questions anyone has about my experience thus far.

Ciao!

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Arrivederci

In 24 hours I will board a plane at MSP and start the journey to Rome, Italy.

For the next 4 months I will study at the John Felice Rome Center. The opportunities are endless and I plan on taking advantage of every one. To see more, to experience more, and to soak up every bit of Europe possible.

It’s nerve-wracking jumping into this semester without any set idea of what is in store, but that’s part of what makes me so excited.

I’m going to miss Chicago, Minnesota, my family, friends, and boyfriend so much. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to last without Caribou Coffee, but I imagine that once I get there thoughts of Turtle Mochas won’t even cross my mind.

I hope through my experiences that others will be inspired to take the plunge and see the world. I leave for Rome without close friends, a concrete plan, and many other security blankets in my life. This is the first time I will get to be truly independent. I am excited to see who I meet, how I grow, and what I am capable of.

This is the chance of the lifetime, as cliche as it sounds, and I intend to fully enjoy it.

I’m leaving my blog open to my experiences and will share lots of stories and pictures. (Grazie mamma e papà for the new Canon camera! )

With so much packing left to do and things to get together, I will post as soon as I have a chance.

Ciao!