Monday, February 28, 2011


For as long as I can remember, I've loved rearranging furniture, painting my room, changing the artwork, switching bedspreads - redesigning anything and everything.

Now, I won't say that a house fire is ever a good thing or that the experience of living in this hotel for the past few (too many) weeks has been an enjoyable experience but its a chance at starting new.

Apartment Therapy.
Urban Outfitters.
Pier 1.
Ashley Furniture.
Click. Repeat. Browse. History. Click.

My life has been occupied by clicking through site after site, deciding upon the furniture and bedroom decor I will use to make my room well my room.

The trick of it isn't finding furniture but rather.. somewhere to put the furniture in my expansive 9ft 5in by 9ft 6in bedroom. Despite the two and a half hours spent on Ikea via iPhone, the hand drawn chicken-scratched blue prints and the game of "rush hour" played trying to fit a desk, dresser, bed, television and hamper in all at once.

I'm hopelessly in love.
[click if you are too]
Hundreds of calculations from inches to feet and back... A notebook full of drawings scratched out and redrawn.. and a screaming conversation with my family in the car on the way home tonight.. and I'm nowhere.

Stuck with the realization that there is no way to fit everything I want in my small area of the world unless I resort to a loft bed (and desk underneath!) or shoving my clothes in laundry baskets piled by my closet door.

And so, I dream. Click and dream.
But what else is a girl to do?

For those of you who offered to help with repairing the house, we are coordinating a work weekend coming up this weekend, March 5th and 6th. Wether you know how to drywall or you can't quite use a hammer - we'd love the help. Anytime during the two days is quite fine, just let me know if you plan to be there! Hopefully we will be moved back in by Tuesday. Pizza will be provided so come join us this weekend, help get some work done &... we'll love you forever?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

We say "happy", you say "birthday!"

Today, Aiden went to his very first Kindergarden birthday party.. Big deal, right? Apparently, a big enough deal to get a hair cut, brush his teeth extra long, and wear his very best clothes.

Luckily for me, Ryan tagged along.

First to the mall (for the haircut), then back to the hotel, to Lowe's (to look at flooring) and even to Chuck E. Cheese for the most claustrophobia-inducing party we've ever attended. But like Ryan said... "Aiden, I haven't been to Chuck E. Cheese in twice as many years as you are old." And so, to Chuck E. Cheese we went.

Apparently, my mother finds it innapropriate that Aiden's butt is showing in this picture.
Me? Well, I think it's cute so the photo's staying.
My apologies if you happen to be offended by baby butts.
It seems as though Ryan and Aiden are getting closer by the second. I remember Ryan's looks of embarassment as Aiden threw crayons at Friendly's but now? Now they race around Lowe's and make plans to ditch me as soon as possible. Real cool, boys.. Real cool.

As an elementary-kid, I was one of the "lucky" ones with a Chuck E. Cheese party, complete with a mermaid themed cake. Aiden will never be one of those kids. Maybe we've all just grown or the novelty of Chuck E Cheese has worn off but I don't remember ever seeing so many children/parents/employees shoved into a play place, arcade and party area.

In ways though, the "place where a kid can be a kid" has grown up with us. For instance, green screen technology makes for the best, zebra-print dance parties. And the music choices? Miley Cyrus, Party in the USA. And you can't forget Chuck E. teaching kids the Cupid Shuffle.

Like his big sister, Aiden always prefers to be behind the camera. He spends much of his time taking iPhone photos, video taping things (or more likely.. absolutely nothing) and today proved my point. Aiden wanted nothing to do with starring on TV like the other fives and sixes around him.

That is, until Gwen grabbed him as hard as she could and drug him to dance.

Despite the change in age, I'm almost positive that there is still no better pizza.. says the gluten-free girl. I drooled for an hour over the pizza, the Princess and the Frog cake, and the icecream cups. I snuck some icing, inhaled some vanilla icecream (oops?), sipped my soda and told myself that getting sick wasn't worth a slice of that pizza.

I have a feeling that I was quite wrong - the birthday girl was loving it.

In the end (despite the crowds), we saw Chuck E, we laughed at Halie's hurricane of tickets, we made a bad deal at Deal or No Deal, we won tickets and cashed them in, and we yelled "Happy" and "Birthday" as loud as we could.

But most importantly, we had fun. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

If You Asked

If you asked me a year ago, where we'd be now... I would've never imagined this.
Depsite my faith, my hope, my dreams, my confidence... I would've never imagined this.
Had you told me this would be hard... I would've never imagined this.

The one hundred and forty three days I spent as co-chair of THON at Penn State York were filled with love, laughs, stress, fights, late nights, meetings, events, 5Ks, Hershey trips, and a lot of money raised.

Just over a year ago, I danced for forty-six hours. I stood in line for bathrooms, couldn't shower for two days, rubbed my feet with tennis balls and dreamed of what my organization would accomplish over the next year.

In June, we had our first summer meeting and sat down to make goals. Short term and long term. My committee members scribbled their goals onto quarter sheets of paper.

"Beat last year's total!"

"Build a wishing well!"

"Get thirty members!"

My first and only goal at the time was to beat last year's total of $5,197.85. At the time, it was a number I was proud of. I can say that though we improved so much over the past year, I am still proud of that number. Ultimately, it was over $5000 which improved the lives of children with cancer and though it may not have been $100,000 plus raised by some organizations - it was still gas money for a family or part of a Four Diamonds Fund employee salary.

As time passed, I discussed reaching $10,000 and how happy I would be to make that happen. Then, to beat York's record which we were told was about $13,000. I remember laughing to Ryan and saying "Imagine if we raised $15 thousand" and I remember him telling me that I might be surprised.

Surprised isn't even the word for it.

In 143 days, my organization managed to raise $17,160.71. That averages out to just over $120 each day. With four canning weekends, a few sub sales, countless events and so many weekly meetings, we did it.

We beat last year's total.
We broke $10,000.
We beat our campus record.
We surpassed $15,000.
We made it into the top ten fundraising commonwealth campuses.
We raised $17,160.71

and it was beautiful.

This weekend, we joined the entire Penn State University in dancing, rejoicing and celebrating for forty-six hours. Angi and Sam rocked the floor for York and I was lucky to spend much of the weekend with them. I took on the jobs of co-chair/moraler/photographer/babysitter all at once and frankly, it was exhausting.

I've been without a computer and therefore.. unable to blog on any normal basis. But now that I've finally purchased one (more on that to come!), I've got a nine a.m. class calling my name. Look forward to regular blog posts once again and many more THON photos to come.. hundreds of them, actually.

But until then? Goodnight. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Be Mine.

For each of us, holiday's hold special meanings, unique traditions, lasting memories. Valentine's Day is more than just "an annual commemoration held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions" or "a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards" for most. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) For me, Valentine's Day means:

A Sunday Secrets filled with love, hate, regret, and plenty of hearts. Unfortunately, it seems as though PostSecret wasn't feeling the same way I was today - happy. Apparently, lonliness won out this year even if reading the chosen cards was a reminder of just how lucky I am to be happily in love with a boy who buys me PostSecret books and even reads them with me. Like I said, I'm lucky.

Lucky to have a boy who takes me out to eat (all the time) and even buys me dessert... though we both know (all too well) that I shouldn't be eating it. A boy who won't get mad (not too mad, at least) when I leave our movie tickets at the restaurant. A boy who lets me take his picture twenty-three times across the dinner table. A boy who has learned to laugh and roll his eyes at how messy of an eater I am. A boy who jumps in line at the store to pay for my things... just because. I'm lucky to have Ryan.

A traditonal but oh so cliche movie date. Last year's choice? Well, Valentine's Day. This year? No Strings Attached. If you haven't caught on - I've got a bit of a girl crush on Natalie Portman. (Not that Ashton Kutcher is hard to watch for an hour and fifty minutes, either) The movie wasn't a dissapointment. It was clever, cute, funny, mildly innapropriate but mostly cute. Basically, it was perfect.

Valentine's Day also means showering those I love with well, more love than usual. Aiden is always at the top of my love list. We spent a night writing out names on Penguins of Madagascar Valentines - they came with pencils, too! We spent an evening reading the cards he got, eating the candy and drawing "thank you pictures" for his favorite cards like ones featuring secret agent hamsters. But this year, Aiden wasn't my only valentine under the age of six.

Cue: the two cutest sisters I know. Sometimes we play Rapunzel (even if our "hair" makes us look like a band of gypsies), sometimes we pretend we're Ariel in disguise and wear red dishcloths as wigs. Today? Today, we celebrated Valentines. We smelled roses, we put lillies in vases, we tied balloons on our lunch chairs, we ate Hershey Kisses, and snuck candy hearts from the candy dish. If anyone was loved this Valentine's Day , it was my girls. Poor Ryan spent his Valentine's Day being strung around the Dollar Tree and Giant in search of the perfect flowers, balloons, bags and candy.. even if the balloons ultimately just flew out the door, anyway.

Unfortunately, Valentine's Day also means working three jobs at once. Designing flowers before heading off to serve dinner to thirty couples each night. Cutting my fingers on thorns and then making feeble attempts at hiding the cuts as I deliver desserts to table after table. What a holiday.

Valentine's Day means crushed rose petals on the floor (and in my boots), dozens of roses in eight and a half inch vases, overpriced arrangements, ridiculous card messages, and boxes of chocolate truffles.

Valentine's Day means too much pink and white chalk, lots of ground pepper, creme de cassis cake, an overflowing reservation book and a tired Jen.

This year, Valentine's meant "cheer up" treats from my little sister. A pillow pet for me, Backstreet Boys for Aiden, a bag full of candy and kool-aid for Sean. Unfortunately, that meant tissue paper skewed across my bedroom floor and stepping on piles of gummy candy as I tried to brush my teeth the next morning. Even still, I just adore Lindsey. (And Elsie, my penguin.)

But we all know that there is one February holiday that means as much as Valentine's Day to me (well, maybe a little more) - THON weekend. In the next three days and eighteen hours, there are socks to buy, bags to pack, sneakers to break in, and sunglasses to wear. There are cards to make, sleep shifts to schedule, and last minute donations to collect. With Ryan's help, I've got sunglasses off my list. Now only everything else to find, buy and stuff in a duffle bag... at least I won't have to stuff the duffle bag in dancer storage, right?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Will Be the Flame

Remember, after the fire, after all the rain - I will be the flame.
For those of you who aren't familiar, take a minute to listen to Cheap Trick's The Flame - trust me, it's nothing close to "I want you to want me, I need you to need me." It's the soundtrack of my week.

I apologize for the lack of posts this past week, I know I had such grand ideas but here we sit. At least I can say that this is my 50th post!

I'd also like to say a big happy birthday to my mom!
Typically, she'd get a whole post but... my laptop smells like smoke, my camera is just about dead, and so I'm sitting in the hotel "business center", listening to elevator music that I simply can't stand so, this is going to be short. Maybe tomorrow.. Besides, her gift has been me trying to convince her that she is not cursed, and doesn't need to start throwing away things.. but we might see some sort of psychic or something, just in case.
In other news... life has been, interesting, to say the least. After a week at Ryan's, I finally got to see my family as we reunited in the living room of Homewood Suites at approx. midnight, when I finally got off of work on Friday night.

I always thought that living in a hotel was really just a myth, you know... The Suite Life of Zach and Cody? Turns out, there really are hotels meant to live in and well, the Lake family is rocking that idea right now.

Errr, rocking might not be the best word choice... but we're getting by.

There are some great benefits to living in a hotel, for instance:
  • Someone else makes your bed every morning.
  • They also clean the bathroom for you.
  • And give you clean, fresh pressed towels.
  • Free shampoo? I'm in.
  • Real breakfast served every day from 6 - 10.
  • And dinner too!
  • And snacks at 8:30 each night. Cookies? Helluva Good french onion dip with Ruffles?
  • And if I'm still hungry? Well, there are always Hershey Kisses on my night stand.

But, the combination of all the above still doesn't make up for the lack of sleep from my snoring little brother.

Hopefully ear plugs will do the trick.

The only other real problem is that the kitchen, bathrooms and dishes are miniature sized. To the point that Sean resorted to eating his breakfast from a sauce pan. Classy.. and so typically Sean.

"It'd take me like 10 bowls of cereal in this (shakes porcelein mini-bowl) to be full"
Other than spending way too much time in way too close of quarters with my family, we've been doing the things we have to do to move on.

Yesterday, I finally saw the house and spent my morning piling clothes into trash bags to make a trip to the laundry mat. Fortunately, the Red Cross gave us this fabulous miracle water which removes the smell of smoke from fabrics. Unfortunately... it doesn't work on things like this laptop.. Delilah's cage.. my hairbrush.. or the rest of my life which is still sitting in my smoke-filled bedroom. But, we use it for what we can and that meant fifteen loads of laundry. The only problem is, I've got all clothes that don't match and only have one pair of shoes.

And after another long night of work and fifty-two people in a room that only seats thirty-eight comfortably, a trip to the grocery store, and a night comprised of six hours of restless, snoring-filled sleep... Aiden and I spent the day with Ryan.

Who delivered legos. A LOT of legos.

And a shopping-spree to a boy with no toys.
And who drove me to PetSmart to buy Delilah a new home. Her cage smelled as if she had developed a very unhealthy, chain-smoking habit.
"Hi. Is this the front desk? Can you bring pets?"
"Yes. What kind of pet?"
"Can I bring my hamster?"
"Does she live in a ball or something?"
"No... she lives in a cage.."
"We've never had a hamster before... I don't know what the charge will be. I'll call you back."

[Phone Rings.]

"Yes, this is about your hamster. There will be no charge, unless she sheds and gets fur on any of the carpet or furniture. Then it will be fifty dollars."
"Okay, thanks"
Yes. That was a real conversation. Shedding hamsters living in balls? Really....?

But Delilah is settled in nicely, in her new pink princess cage. Complete with pastel, confetti-colored bedding!

And slowly but surely with a lot of help from Ryan and family, I'm getting settled in too.

I have to say a great big thank you (again for... the 3002nd time?) because Ryan not only housed me for a week and fed me s'mores but has offered to fold laundry, clean smoke covered walls, took me shopping for some ridiculous things and has just been the best. Really. He's great.

Thank you to everyone who has offered their help and thoughts. We cannot begin cleaning until the insurance company comes in to asess damage. But for those who are persistant about helping, I can give you a list of things we are in need of though I promise you, we are doing okay.

Well, except for the people who keep telling us that God set our house on fire.....

Thursday, February 3, 2011

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Things haven't worked out here quite as I plarnned. It's Thursday and I'm just now getting around to Saturday but it's been a week of limited time and resources. Monday morning, I decided that I would spend the night in Millersville with Ryan but that night has turned in to three. Not that I would complain, but it could be for better reasons.

Last night, I got a text at 7:56pm - "The house is on fire."

Twelve hours later and it seems that I've finally gotten the story. The fire was contained downstairs and didn't reach the exterior of the house but left us with a charred and soaked living/dining room and apparently, a horrific smell. I haven't been home to see it, though.

So a big thank you to Ryan and Sean for being generous hosts for the past four days. It means a lot to know that you have some where to go when you get a text like that. Really. Plus arriving late last night to more s'mores and mint rice dream (ice cream for the non-dairy types) meant the world. Yummm.

But on a brighter note - let's talk about the weekend.
Not this weekend... but the last.

At (almost) the last minute, I found out I would be making a trip to State College for a CCSG Council Weekend. At that point, it started out as me driving up Friday night, late after work, by myself and then returning home just after council ended.

But this is how it turned out instead:

It just so happened that Saturday was also the THON hoops basketball game and I got to watch the Nittany Lions take-on and defeat fourth-ranked Wisconsion. It was a close game the entire night and you could feel a pin drop each time foul shots were taken.

But the only thing that beats a good basketball game (and a good trip to State College, really) is being there with some of your favorite people. Luckily for me, Hana, my best-friend AND Family Relations Captain, didn't work until Sunday and was able to join me for her first weekend in Happy Valley.

Plus, we got to sit with some pretty goofy guys who knew a lot more about basketball than we did. Oddly enough, I think this is the most time I've gotten to spend with these guys in months - even though we go to the same Penn State campus and pass each other daily, just enough time for a wave or a hug. (They're definitely huggers.)

And while it was sort of odd to spend that much time with these guys, it was even stranger to spend time with these two...

About half way through the game, my phone vibrates and I figured it must be someone I was trying to get a hold of in State College (after all, I had so much THON work to take care of between the fun) but no, it was my best friend from home, Nikki. Somehow in our mutual work to fight cancer, we both ended up at the THON Hoops/Coaches versus Cancer game that night. From two hours north in Mansfield, and two hours south in York, we coincidently met in the middle at a basketball game without knowing that it would happy. Funny, huh? I also finally got the chance to meet David who Nikki talks about oh so much - funny, nice guy. Only downfall? He's a little too tall for my car.

But we managed to squeeze him in for the short ride to Applebee's where a table for 10 was awaiting us. We met up with Claire and Andy, shivered in the cold waiting for a table, played paper football with Ryan, and ate... a lot.

After dinner, we rushed back to the hotel again, to change and head off to our last adventure of the night with my favorite people, Tom Shelly and Steph Fuss. But eventually, the snow-lined roads of 322 call you home (Way too early in the morning that is.)

Photo Credit: Rajdeep
After a $110 speeding ticket and an accident for good measure, we made it back to York County. A little late for work for some but at least we made it... just in time for bingo markers and baskets.

If you're like me, and you've never been to bingo. Here's a recap of what we did, exactly:

We played with dobbers.

We saw the Hagens.

And baby cousins.

We bought raffle tickets.

But more than anything, we played bingo. A lot of bingo.

And raised money, For the Kids.

According to THINK (THON's Information Network)... As of today, Penn State York has raised $14,710.69 which is a new record for our campus. Please help us go even further by making a donation at today. [We ask that you please credit "General Organizations - York" so that we receive credit for your donation.] Thank you for helping to make a difference in the life of a child wether it is by donation, through bingo, or dropping change into the cans on the street.

Today, we are $14,710.69 closer to a cure.