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Jessica Gamba
27 September 2009 @ 10:31 am
I have a TON of things to talk about. How could I not? Graduate school is intense, and there's no way to be bored in Chicago. But every time I gear myself up to write about it, I manage to find something else to do. There's just so much! And when I'm writing two essays a week (no lie), I have to admit, writing for fun loses some of its charm.

But it's finally time for an update!

Where to start. The landlord stuff is progressing nicely, it's all a lot better than I anticipated. Basically, I sent the legal notices a week and a half ago, and haven't heard a peep from him. I've been avoiding him, to be fair- but no letters in my mailbox, no knocks on my door. Fine with me. That's the easy way out of my lease, the one I honestly didn't expect. I gave him a list of things to repair in the course of two weeks, and he hasn't even made an effort. So my lease is officially broken on Wednesday, and I'll be moving out by November 1st. HOPEFULLY into a condo. If the whole buying process takes too long, I'm going to pack up my stuff into one of the POD movers aaaand basically bounce from apartment to apartment until everything finishes up, heh. I'm glad I've made some friends out here.

On the house hunting front, well, the news is mixed. I've been having a great time, but I haven't found the perfect place yet. So many condos in the nicer areas have hugely high assessment fees- to attract 'a certain element', it's been suggested to me. Wouldn't surprise me. That knocks a lot of places I can afford based on their asking price out of the arena. Co-ops are also out, for a variety of reasons. At this point, there is one place I'm strongly considering. However, I'm seeing another on Monday... and I have very high hopes. It's a two bedroom duplex with a balcony. The building has a private beach. Now, the asking price is right... assessments fees and taxes are low enough... but I've been told up front that the condo needs some serious 'updating'. I'm willing to commit to that. As long as it's livable, I think this place might be a winner!

Aside from chapters upon chapters of reading every week, the house hunting has been my main focus lately. I've certainly found time to have fun, though. I'm someone who likes to be in bed early enough to feel rested in the morning- I know my limits. But I've managed to stay within those limits while still going out with the girls once a week or so! One night we went to a place where an 80s cover band was playing. Definitely my kind of scene. I received a free Irish car bomb for 'looking Irish', and a shot of my choice for deciphering a guy's magic trick. The place had two-for-one specials all night, so buying drinks for others was strongly encouraged. I'd definitely go there again.

As for the next few weeks- still have to concentrate on finding a condo. But I do have my first ABA conference on the 9th, which Jon is flying in to join me for. PUMPED about that. Mom will hopefully be able to visit soon after that. Halloween should be fun, though I may well be in the process of moving that weekend. Oh, and next Friday there's an official Cake Wrecks party! Always plenty to do. I know I can't have possibly summed it all up. I really will try to update more often.
Jessica Gamba
04 September 2009 @ 08:47 pm
The laundromat is turning out to be a good places to settle down and write blog posts, haha. I'm here doing... about $30 worth of laundry. I decided to wash my musty winter blankets, which I know I'll need soon. It's getting chilly! So here I sit with my wireless internet and Quiznos sandwich- and the dogs are along with me, too! The proprietor very kindly let them sit inside with me, and even provided a bowl of water.

This week has been pretty great. I suffered a brief bout of loneliness, but things improved quickly. I had a nice night with Rob and a couple of his friends, and got to know one of my TAs... who also happens to be the president of Chicago Students for Behavior Analysis! We initially met during orientation, when I asked her about the club. She was delighted to find out that I had even heard of it. We have VERY similar interests. I'm hoping to get the chance to hang out with her a bit more this weekend, but we both have ridiculous amounts of reading to do. That won't change for a while!

I've also been attempting to socialize with my coworkers/classmates. They're one and the same! I'll be seeing most of them every day, at least for a few hours. Last night we went out to a bar called the Kit Kat... it's in Boy's Town. Pretty self explanatory neighborhood name! This place in particular had transsexual floor shows. Wonderfully hilarious. It also had $5 martinis, which was just plain wonderful. Best part yet- I met Ramon, a contestant on the current season of Project Runway! Oprah's birthday is on Tuesday, and she's shutting down the Magnificent Mile for a 'block party' this weekend. Perhaps I'll see if my star-spotting luck continues.

Outside of those exciting events... Chicago is just stunning beautiful. I drive to and from work along Lakeshore Drive, and I don't think I'll ever get tired of it. I'm actually eager for it to snow- I'm sure the view will be just as uniquely lovely, if not moreso. The city skyline is beyond words. Lake Michigan is gorgeous, rivaling even the Pacific Ocean at times. I hope to get the chance to take a long walk down there this weekend. It's about two miles from my apartment, and I don't think the dogs will really like going on that long of a journey, but I wouldn't want to leave them behind! Maybe I'll drive and just park it there for the day. Do some homework, even.

At work, this week was dedicated entirely to classroom set-up. The place is looking great. We have two classrooms for the academic and pre-academic groups, one huuuuuge multi-purpose room for the functional skills group, and a smaller room with individual independent work stations. That's also where the behavior specialists will be camping out most of the time, working on projects and ready to respond quickly to any serious problems.
I can't adequately express how large the whole building is. The Chicago Vocational Career Academy opened in 1940, just in time for World War II. At that point it was used by the Navy for a host of exciting activities... to this day it has a freakin' aircraft hangar. Read about it, it's pretty cool. Walking from the entrance to the special ed classrooms takes a good 10 minutes. Trekking from there to the cafeteria, gym, or elevators... another 15. We'll be getting our exercise!

CVCA is one of Chicago's many exquisite buildings. No lie. Everything in the city is fantastically art deco. Here's the school's entrance. Every single structure is a work of art. The skyline is stunning. I don't even bother taking many of my own pictures- I know there are so many beautiful ones out there! The scene attracts artists. This is Museum Campus. The Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and Soldier Field are all there together. FANTASTIC. It's one of my favorite places to pass on Lakeshore, only rivaled by Buckingham Fountain. The picture doesn't even do it justice. It's HUGE. I really have to go for a walk this weekend, haha.

That's that! The three day weekend is dedicated to cleaning, a couple of errands, READING, and a dinner/movie marathon on Sunday. Hope everyone has a good one!
Jessica Gamba
30 August 2009 @ 07:38 pm
First day of school is tomorrow... hee! I am quite satisfyingly over-prepared. I'll be at work from 8 to 12, and will probably drive in order to speed things up a bit... then I'll swing back by the apartment, take the dogs out, and take transit to the Merchandise Mart. Most of my courses will actually meet in there- I won't even have to leave the building! Class from 2 to 9 at that point. Adds up to a loooong day, especially with commute time included. But I can't wait! I'm pretty much going to take my big messenger bag with me wherever I go now, so it's well stocked with paper, pens, high lighters, white out, a calculator, everything. I even put together an 'emergency' kit with tylenol, band aids, kleenex, aaaaand lip gloss and deodorant. My lunch/dinner is packed and in the fridge. I did stop short of laying out my clothes, but heck, I might get back up and do that now that it's occurred to me. I only have two of my five classes tomorrow, but it feels like a big event even so. I'd probably be less on edge if it wasn't for my bizarre work schedule. Usually I'll work all day on Tuesday and Thursday, and a half shift on Wednesday mornings. None of this up early on Monday nonsense. But they're paying me, so I can't complain too much.

I'm going to call it a very early night. I got a lot done today between chores and homework (yes, already) and I know I'll need my energy tomorrow. The lights are out and the pups already think it's time to sleep... though they seem to think that most of the time anyway. Good night!
Jessica Gamba
27 August 2009 @ 05:26 pm
All riiiight, successful day. Work was wonderful- the first day of training that I can claim to have actually enjoyed myself. Previously we were just treading over old ground, at least in my case. Today we actually got a look at the students' most recent IEPs and prepared workbooks for them based on current academic goals. The process really gave me an image of what the kids are like as individuals. I have at least a vague idea of what to expect behaviorally, and I'm already excited to try out some new interventions.

On that note, I think I have a solid thesis idea! I want to determine whether self-monitoring can more effectively increase target behavior and/or decrease problem behavior than simply being tracked by a teacher or professional. The students are already on a point system, so the implementation wouldn't interfere with current lesson plans. I'd just apply the concept to a behavior that isn't currently being tracked... I'm still uncertain about how to demonstrate experimental control. Track one student for a while, then start up the self-monitoring? Track one student while another self-monitors? Take baseline for two students, and then start up self-monitoring and see if both improve at similar rates? I'll have to look at the literature and see what the norm is.

Upon arriving home, I steam mopped my entire apartment with my fully functional Shark. Even went over the whole floor afterward with disinfectant. I will no longer be ashamed when guests walk around barefooted! Everything here is looking great. It's hard to keep clutter from accumulating in such a small space, but there really is a place for everything.

It's already cooling down here with the recent rainstorms. It's about 60 degrees, nice enough that I no longer turn on the AC unless it gets too humid. The dogs aren't crazy about going outside when it's wet, but ohhhh well. They'll just have to learn to be quicker about it! Murphy is getting a lot more vocal in general. He complains now if he can't jump up onto the bed right away- I may have to get him a set of doggy stairs, it is quite a leap. It still doesn't sound like much, just his little frog-like 'rrrrr', but it cracks me up. Bridget only barks when someone lingers in the entryway, and when I come home. The frequency has already reduced, though. Using some planned ignoring to great effect! I give her attention as soon as she settles down, and not at all when she's 'screaming'.

I'm learning my way around Chicago very quickly out of necessity. My GPS is accurate enough, but has nooooo idea about traffic. I've come to understand that I should NOT take Western everywhere, despite our constant trips up and down it while dad was in town. The expressway is never, EVER effective. Good bets are Lakeview and any two lane road just off the major routes. It's also safe to take any highway on the way out of the city in the morning and back in at night. 'Night' being any time after 2:30. There are maybe six waking hours that aren't 'rush'.

I still have a lot to do. I'm already enrolled in a self-paced online class that will be wrapping up far too soon. School starts NEXT WEEK. I'm diligently working on thank-you notes, and still need to make some duplicate keys. But bit by bit, everything is getting done!
Jessica Gamba
26 August 2009 @ 10:45 am
I've neglected this blog far more than I intended! Really, I think that Jon is a bigger distraction from the internet than school will ever be, heh. I hope everyone has been doing well and has been on Facebook enough to know that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. I've been having a fine time, actually!

I can't believe I've only been here for two weeks. I feel like I have so much to talk about. Jon and I got right to work during the week after dad left. I know I mentioned that our toilet started leaking out the bottom - well, so much for management being quick on the draw, because that took about FOUR DAYS to fix. I couldn't get in touch with anyone! I guess you just have to be lucky enough to catch the groundskeeper out and about. Getting the internet service hooked up went off without a hitch, but I sure didn't have a working stove by Tuesday... in fact, the gas was just hooked up this morning. I can finally cook! Everything else seems fine, and I'll have pictures up soon.

I had two days of training for work right off the bat, and am now certified in CPR and CPI again. I met quite a few people there who I'll be seeing a lot of at both work and school. Most of them are just as new to the city as I am, so we've all been making an effort to go out together and get to know each other and our surroundings. We had plans for one girl's (April's) birthday one night, but a sudden EXTREME downpour put that off. Jon and I decided to brave the weather, though, and ended up at a great place called the Fiddlehead Cafe. It's well known for its wine, cheese, and extensive beer list. On top of that, the prices were outrageously good! It was a lovely night out, and I'd definitely like to go there again.

My GPS initially told me it'd take three or four hours to get to Toronto. WRONG. As we started driving, the time grew to something more like NINE hours. It wasn't bad at all, though. Jon was plenty drugged up on Dramamine, the dogs traveled well, and the scenery was beautiful. My time in Toronto was hectic, though. Jon had already taken the GRE in Chicago, and he jumped immediately into the MCAT when he got back home. That entirely monopolized Friday, and we spent Saturday pretty much just relaxing, far away from the little tasks required of moving in. The drive home was noooot so enjoyable, of course. No company, for one thing! In addition, Murphy had gotten into some cat food the night before, which made him sick to his stomach just in time for the drive. We tried to desperately to keep the dogs and cats apart - the cats HATED the dogs - but there was a hole in our defense at some point. I stopped and let poor Murphy out of the car every hour or two. Made for a looooong drive.

Was that only three days ago? I dove immediately into more training for work on Monday. Orientation at school on Tuesday. The girls I had met- April, Lori, Ainsly, Robyn, and Selena (Lauren and Maggie weren't present)- jumped on the opportunity of being downtown and we all went shopping on State street. I have, in all honesty, never been in a store like the Macy's there. It was overpowering. I happily stuck with more manageable stores like Old Navy, Payless Shoes, and Nordstrom Rack. Fun! Some went out for drinks late at night, but Ainsly and I had dinner at a place called Latitude in Lincoln Square near my place. They have great deals that change every day. We caught 'buy two appetizers, get one free'. We stuck with that for our meal and had WAY more food than we could manage!

I had more training today, and it will continue for the next week and a half... but, as previously mentioned, I finally got an appointment for my gas to be turned on today. I wasn't going to give that up. The rest of the day is dedicated to getting a new key made, picking up my UPass for Chicago transit, exchanging my defunct Shark for a new one, and potentially getting a new license and license plates. Don't know what all's involved with that, but it's required for me to get my city sticker for parking. Dog licenses can be acquired at the same time, but I don't want to make two trips. So here we go!
Jessica Gamba
15 August 2009 @ 10:42 am
Ohhh man. Moving in has been far more complicated than I anticipated. I never had much trouble in the past.

Well, let me back up. The trip out here was really quite nice. Wyoming is horribly boring, but even for the eight or so hours it took to drive across, it was interesting to see just what other states look like. FYI: California is still the best. Actually moving everything in went smoothly too. The landlord had forgotten to give us the front door key, but it was quickly acquired and didn't delay us much. The apartment wasn't clean (AT ALL) but my industrious father took care of that. I couldn't have done ANY of this without him. Having him with me was a huge relief. However...

- Sink had a leak, which was repaired swiftly- I'll give the management that, they're quick enough to correct their own mistakes. It'd just be nice if they didn't happen in the FIRST place.

-Then the toilet sprung a leak, too. Water just started seeping out the bottom. YAY. Still need to find the landlord to tell him about that.

- Gas isn't hooked up, which means the stove and oven don't work- and apparently the local provider is closed all weekend. I'll probably have a functioning kitchen by Tuesday. Until then, it's microwave meals and eating out for me and Jon!

- Murphy and Bridget are plenty comfortable in the place, but they aren't thrilled about staying home alone. Murphy can get to one window in the apartment by standing on the dresser next to my bed... and knocking everything off of it in the process. They're confined to the dining room and kitchen now... if the gate can stop Murphy's determination! We'll see!

Everything is fine though. I can more or less relax this weekend. I need to buy a modem for my internet service which will be installed next week. I have an appointment to get fingerprinted for my new job on Monday. CPR/CPI training on Tuesday and Wednesday. Recuperate a bit on Thursday, then we head briefly to Toronto. I'll have to come back here on Sunday night, for a week long intensive orientation for both work and school. Then school and work actually START. Phew! Wish me luck. Pictures will be coming as soon as I have an internet connection! I'm just at the laundromat right now, haha.
Jessica Gamba
07 August 2009 @ 02:32 pm
Time for a halfhearted update. Just said my goodbyes to Grandma and Grandpa, and did the same with Grandma Jo and Grandpa Al earlier. It was incredibly hard, and I don't even want to think about going through the same with my mom tomorrow. At least it will feel more natural with my dad, since he's flying home from Chicago... it's hard to pin down exactly, but it won't be so drawn out, he'll be getting on the plane and going. Here, we're not even sure exactly when we'll leave- and my mom will watch us drive away. Pretty sure I'll be bawling. If I didn't have Jon waiting for me on the other side I don't know if I could do it.

That's all.
Jessica Gamba
06 August 2009 @ 10:12 am
Well, this week has been zooming by, sure enough. I can't even remember all of the activities I've packed in. What the heck did I do on Monday? It was my birthday- I spent it with my grandparents and Aunt Mary. With all of the packing and moving around of stuff that's happened since then, it feels like it was weeks ago! I enjoyed a lovely lunch with Grandma Jo on Tuesday to celebrate her birthday. Measured furniture, got the dimensions of my apartment, and have been playing with layout designs ever since. Here's something of a final version.

Amazing to think think that Wednesday was only yesterday. It was my 3rd anniversary with Jon. Oddly, given our busy schedules, I spent much less time online with him than usual, haha. Made one last visit with the dogs to Grandma and Grandpa's house, hauled boxes downstairs, put a final coat of varnish on my furniture, and had dinner with Josh and Tomas. Today is already THURSDAY. I'll be spending the day in Sacramento, can't wait to get on the road. Tomorrow we pack, and Saturday we leave. If we get to Chicago by Monday night, it'll allow us a bit of sleep before picking up Rob on Tuesday to move everything in. Jon arrives on Wednesday, and it'll be nonstop apartment projects until dad leaves on Friday. Phew! I won't even go into my madcap schedule in the couple of weeks before school starts. Maybe later, when I'm not typing in jittery, disjointed sentences.

It is entirely likely that I'll Facebook and possibly even LJ on the road. Oh, technology. Stay tuned!
Jessica Gamba
02 August 2009 @ 10:17 pm
Well, my going away party was yesterday, and it couldn't have been better. It was so wonderful to see everyone- to be supported by friends and family like that is of unmatched value, and I do feel like I got a bit more closure because of it. Here are some pictures of the lively event.

Now that that's over with... I feel BUSIER THAN EVER! I went out with my mother today to get some winter boots, and with that mission accomplished I spent the rest of the day packing up my clothes and the last few odds and ends in my room. I can't believe my entire wardrobe fits in two suitcases. Well, that's not counting shoes, jackets, or dresses... but still.

Beyond that, tomorrow is my birthday, and I'm spending it having breakfast with my Aunt Mary and grandparents, followed by a long tutorial for the latter in Facebook and the internet in general. I need them to keep track of me online, and vice versa! I'll definitely call them often, but I'm really loathe to use phones, and would like to avoid it as much as possible. Sorryyyyy. Tuesday I'll be off to Grandma Jo's- another August birthday! Thursday I'll be dining with cousins Josh and David. On Wednesday I'm heading up to Sacramento to see James, Andrew, Lauren, Kolbi, and Jeff. Big dinner at Paesano's on Andrew's recommendation, I'm excited! I'll almost certainly see Aaron on the way there or back, though I'm not sure what his schedule is like. Friday I'll START PACKING THE TRUCK. It's also Brian's birthday, and I anticipate evening festivities. All remaining work has to be done on Saturday, and it's quite possible that we'll leave that evening, depending on what my dad's thoughts are. We need to get to Chicago by Wednesday at the very latest, and there's really no telling just how long the drive will take. We don't want to TOTALLY exhaust ourselves... we could get there quickly, but we do have to unload a giant UHaul at the end of it all.

My friend Rob is picking up the keys to my new apartment on Tuesday, and getting enough measurements to draw up a floor plan of the place. My hero! At that point I can figure out exactly what I'm bringing, haha... but I'm pretty dedicated to the big, gorgeous furniture from Poppy's old house. I adore it, and it has sentimental value. I may not have a WHOLE lot of room to walk around it, but I'll probably only be at this place for a year, anyway. At that point, Jon will hopefully be gearing up for grad school in Chicago alongside me, and it would make sense to get a slightly larger place down on the south side. It's cheaper there, and closer to my work and to the school he'd be attending. Same difference for my school, so why not?

The ease of being near Jon is dawning on me bit by bit. It really hit me when I realized that I'd be leaving him in Toronto during the last week of August... and then visiting him again only three weeks later. And then again a maximum of six weeks after that. And soon enough I'll be LIVING with him? Bliss! Things are really coming together.
Jessica Gamba
30 July 2009 @ 10:20 pm
Steppin' up the cheez factor here, but this is how I feel.

"Lucky" Official Video With Colbie Caillat

I love the voices on both these guys.