Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Season of Giving 2014? Splendid!

In 2012 and 2013 I spent December blogging about the different organizations I would be making donations to both locally and nationally.  Unfortunately I'm not really in a position to do that this year.  I also decided that this, my last year in my twenties, would be a year spent trying to make the world a better place.  I am happy to report that I believe I achieved that on a small scale.  

This December, I am not making donations, but I will highlight the organizations to which I have already made donations over the course of the year.  So instead of my 2014 Season of Giving lasting just a couple weeks at the end of the year, I prefer to think that it lasted much much longer.

In July and August, I participated in two separate birthday challenges.  One begat the other, in that after hearing me talk about Julia's birthday challenge, Tina was inspired to do one of her own.

Today I'm sharing the finer points of Julia's Birthday Challenge.  Julia describes her challenge as "part photo scavenger hunt and part service-a-thon."  Participants photograph themselves doing charitable acts and/or making donations to charities and submit them to earn points.

How to gain points:
Donate clothing, books, food, or other items!
1 point for every 2 items donated

Volunteer your time! 
10 points per hour

There are so many places that you can volunteer your time! Here are some suggestions:
· Your public library
· Nearby meal center or food bank
· Local animal shelter
· If you are in the Decatur area, check out the GoodSamaritan Inn!
· If you are in the Chicago area, sign up to volunteer with Chicago Cares or DuPage Pads!

Donate money to a charity!
1 point for every 2 dollars donated

Suggested organizations: Alzheimer's Association and American Cancer Society.

(Just a quick note to put things in perspective: If each one of you donated $10 to a charity during the month of July, our total contribution would add up to more than $1,000!)

Raise money for charity!
10 points per hour, 1 point for every 2 dollars donated
Similar to donating your own money, this version involves donating your time and other people's money!

Ideas: Host a penny drive, have a bake sale, run a 5K or other race for charity, play an instrument on a street corner, have a garage sale, make crafts and sell them, build a banana stand, etc.

Pick up trash around your neighborhood or at a local park!
15 points per hour

Give blood! 
30 points for successful donation; 10 points for attempting to donate if you are deferred or denied. (Extra points for plasma/platelet/double red cells donation!)

Visit the American Red Cross website to find a place to donate near you!

Mow a neighbor's lawn!
15 points per lawn

Visit people in nursing homes! 
20 points for each visit

Bring flowers, sit and chat, play a game or do a puzzle, read to someone, play a song on your guitar, etc.

Organize a trash clean-up or recycling drive in your neighborhood!
15 points for initiative, +10 points per bag/box of trash/recyclables collected

Join Big Brothers Big Sisters!
50 points for pledging to participate for one year

Something else!

Any charitable activity that is not listed above will still count! Just send me your photo and a description of what you did and I will calculate your points.

This year participants could work as teams to earn more points.  I worked with my friend Gabe, and we called ourselves Chambana Domination!  And dominate we did.  Between the two of us, we made 2 donations to Goodwill, 2 donations to Connections (a resale store run by Courage Connection), monetary donations to Planned Parenthood and Leukemia & Lymphoma Research, 6 volunteer activities, and 1 blood donation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Avoiding Insulting Relationship Questions? Splendid!

We're entering into a very strange season for relationships.  Between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, is the most popular time for couples to get engaged.  It's also the most popular time for couples to call it quits.  Additionally, the next few months are typically full of parties and reunions with friends and family you may not see all the time.  If you're in a relationship, the conversation will often turn to the state of said relationship - especially if you're not married.  At least it does in my experience.

I don't talk a whole lot about my own relationship here, because it's a personal thing that isn't really anyone's business.  Except everyone thinks it's their business.  My boyfriend and I have been dating for ten years, and for at least the last 6, friends, family and even strangers have apparently taken an interest in our relationship.  On one hand, it's sweet that people care.  On the other hand, there are a few things that I've heard over the years that are like nails on a chalkboard.

I try not to be as snarky out loud as I am in my head, but sometimes it just slips out.  Here are some of the most common questions, along with what I wish I could say in return.

"Have you guys talked about it (getting married)?"
We've been together for a decade.  Yes, it has come up a couple times.

"When are you guys going to get married?"
My stock answer has become, "Sometime after we get engaged, I would assume."

"Maybe he's just not the marrying kind of guy..."
I think at this point in our relationship, I know what kind of guy he is.  The people who usually say this to me are people that don't know either of us very well.

I've had everyone from virtual strangers to casual acquaintances to family members, upon hearing how long we've been together, ask "What's the problem?"

The only problem is that you think it's okay to ask that question.

I'm an advisor to the local collegiate chapter of SAI.  At a meeting this semester, I was chatting with one of the members, whom I really like.  She was asking me about my college experience and my relationship, which was fine - I didn't mind at all.  At one point, though, she asked me how long we'd been dating, and when I told her 10 years, she was appropriately impressed.  I told her that I was only 18 when we got together, so I was practically a kid in the beginning.  Then she said to me, "I have some cousins who got married when they were older - like 30 - so you're fine."
First of all, 30 isn't old.  At least that's what I keep telling myself as I stare it in the face.  Second, I'm not worried.

I know that none of these people mean to irritate me with any of these questions, and that sometimes they're genuinely interested.  But from now on, instead of asking questions that can be hurtful, try things like, "How is it going with the two of you?"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Packing to Travel? Splendid!

I'm fortunate enough to get to travel quite a bit this year, especially in the next couple weeks.  As I write this, I'm sitting in the Atlanta airport on my way to Orlando for a conference, followed by a day of supremely nerdy behavior with a couple friends at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios before a roadtrip home.  For years now, anytime I'm away from home for more than two days, I prepare a packing spreadsheet to help me make sure I have everything I need.

This really started in 2010 when I was going from a week-long work trip to Memphis straight to a long weekend in Chicago and Milwaukee.  I decided to pack two suitcases - one that would travel to Memphis with me, and another that would meet me in Chicago with my boyfriend.  Since the long weekend included two non-consecutive days at Summerfest, a wedding, and a Cubs/White Sox game, I didn't really need the same kind of apparel appropriate for the work trip.  In order to make sure I have everything I needed for both legs of the trip, I started listing exactly what was going into each bag.  Eventually I turned the list into a spreadsheet (my preferred way of sorting data), and I've never looked back.  

My packing spreadsheet includes each day/date of my trip, a one or two word description of that day's activities (travel or Harry Potter), a detailed account of what I plan to wear, including possible wardrobe changes.  I color coordinate my clothing to cut down on the number of shoes and accessories I need to bring.  My carry-on bag is no different in terms of organization, though it doesn't always necessitate a section of the spreadsheet.  I check and double check that I have everything I need.  This time around everything I need includes the following:

First we have, of course, my wallet.  I purchased this wallet in Florence, Italy a few years ago, and I have yet to find one I like better.  In addition to my ID, money, and various cards, I also carry single pack wet wipes, a couple Advil, and some oil blotting papers.

I can't go anywhere without my iPhone.  On this trip, I was able to send my boarding pass directly to my phone, which was great.  I'm usually super paranoid that I'm going to lose my boarding pass somewhere between security and the gate, and this alleviates that part of my travel stress.

I've been in love with my purple wayfarers since I bought them at Target last summer.  Their bright frames make me feel very summery.  Possibly the best $15 I've ever spent.

I try really hard on trips to pare down what makeup I bring while still having everything I use on a regular basis.  Thank goodness for sample sizes from some of my favorite brands!
Here's what I brought with me for the week:
Benefit Pore-fessional primer
Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Custard
Benefit Erase Paste in Medium
Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion in Original
Bare Minerals Matte Foundation in Medium Beige
Ulta Mineral Blush in Flush
Benefit Hoola Bronzer
Benefit Watts Up Highlighter
L'Oreal Infallible Eyeliner in Brown
Maybelline Color Tattoo Metal Cream Eyeshadow in Barely Branded
Urban Decay Naked Basics Eyeshadow Palette
Maybelline Mega Plush Volum' Express Waterproof Mascara in Brownish Black
Revlon Kissable Balm Stain in Honey
Benefit Coralista Lip Gloss
and to top it all off, literally, Urban Decay All Nighter Make Up Setting Spray
Also in this bag, are my contact re-wetting drops and my eyelash curler.

To apply all that makeup (which seems like a lot more once I've typed it out), I need my brushes, which also fly in my carry-on.  Like with everything else, I try to limit what I bring.
This is what I have with me now:
Real Techniques Buffing Brush for foundation
Bare Escentuals Heavenly Blush Brush for, you know, blush
Real Techniques Contour Brush for bronzer
Real Techniques Flat Shader Brushes (2 - one for matte shadows, one for shimmery shadows)
Real Techniques Accent Brush to line lower lashes using eyeshadow
Urban Decay Dual-sided Eyeshadow Brush (from Naked 2 palette) for blending crease color

I never manage to eat proper meals on the days when I travel.  Either I'm flying over lunch or dinner time (never breakfast - let's be honest here), and until I'm seated at my gate, I can't focus on anything.  I like to pack a couple snacks in my bag in case I don't have time to eat in the airport during layovers.  (Once I had 35 minutes to make it through the Atlanta airport and had to make the choice between using the bathroom and eating.  I chose the bathroom, and made it to my gate as we were starting to board.)  Pre-packaged snacks are obviously the easiest, and the Clif Bar will be substantial enough to keep me from getting hangry.  I'm mostly just addicted to the breath mints, and I'm paranoid that I'm going to run out of them on the trip, so I just brought essentially a whole package.

And speaking of addictions and paranoia,  I can't go anywhere for more than a day without bringing multiple tubes of Chapstick with me.  If I happen to lose a tube (more than likely), I don't want to be without a backup... or two....

When I travel, I like to keep all the cords and chargers and dongles for my electronics together in a little pouch.  I've got my iPhone/iPad charger, my earbuds, my Fitbit charger and dongle all ready to go.

I'm also bringing my iPad Mini, but that's what I used to take all these photos, so it's not pictured.  I love that my Mini is small enough that I can hold it comfortably in one hand.  Since I know I'll spend the majority of my day reading on it, this is a big concern.  I love to travel with it, because it doesn't take up as much room as a book, and I know I'll always be able to download another book or re-read one of mine if I finish whatever I'm working on at the beginning of the trip.

If you've made it to the end of this post, congratulations!  You must be a teacher on summer vacation.  Kidding!  I don't know if anyone will find this remotely interesting, but I know that I find myself watching countless "What's in My Bag" videos on YouTube.  Maybe that's more of a comment on my life, though...  Anyway, we've fast forwarded a few days, and my conference is going to wrap up tomorrow.  The expo at this conference was great, and I picked up a lot of goodies.  So if you've made it this far, leave a comment telling me what's one thing you can't travel without.  I really am interested!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

More Thoughts on Sexism and #yesallwomen? Splendid!

In light of the recent events in Isla Vista, California, the hashtag #yesallwomen has become a trending topic.  Most of people who use the hashtag are women, and they're sharing stories about the injustice they've faced as a female.  Some of the stories are heartbreaking 140-character tales of violence and sexual abuse.  Some are stories of discrimination and inequality.  All of them share the theme that being female in this country, and the world, comes with a special set of obstacles that we must overcome daily.  This is part of my story.

Back in March, I talked about the first time (and second, actually) that I remember experiencing sexism.  While both of those instances were important events in my childhood, they were not nearly as important as an incident that happened in high school.

All throughout high school I participated in Scholastic Bowl.  If you're unfamiliar with the concept, Scholastic Bowl is an official team activity governed by IHSA rules in Illinois.  Teams of up to 15 students, 5 at a time, compete against different schools to answer the most questions correctly in a match.  Matches consist of 10 toss-up questions in math, science, social studies, literature, fine arts, and miscellaneous (sports, technology, agriculture, consumer economics, etc.)  At the end of each round, a bonus question is presented that has multiple answer parts and is worth more points.  Basically it's high-anxiety bar trivia.  Because everything is high-anxiety when you're in high school.  If, for some reason, you're interested in reading official rules, you can check out the Handbook for ManagersLike with other IHSA activities, there are often JV and Varsity teams.  JV Teams typically receive slightly easier questions.  And while the varsity players were typically juniors and seniors, it wasn't unusual to have sophomores playing varsity - especially in my small school.

The misogyny started pretty much right away.  As a freshman, I mostly played on the JV team, but both JV and Varsity travelled together to all our matches, so I spent a lot of time hanging out with upperclassmen.  One senior boy in particular liked to tell "women jokes".  One of his favorites was to ask a girl why she was wearing a watch and respond to whatever answer she gave with, "But I don't know why you need to wear one.  There's a clock on the stove."  He was a real charmer.  As a freshman I laughed along because I wanted to fit in and not rock the boat.  But those kind of jokes got old really quickly, and it got harder for me to hold my tongue.  Luckily that particular gentleman graduated, and I didn't have to deal with him again.  Honestly, he should be happy he never had to deal with me again.  But that was the culture of our team, and it would only get worse the next year.

We had a new guidance counselor/coach my sophomore year as the chemistry teacher/former coach had retired after the previous school year.  I don't remember if the new coach and I consistently butted heads before this incident, but we certainly did following it.  It was near the end of our season, and we were heading to a tournament - probably the county tournament.  The coach was chronically disorganized and had made a mistake in what time the match was.  We ended up arriving at the host school super late and had to go straight into our first match, which immediately frustrated me and some of my teammates.   As we made our way to the room for our first match, our coach told us who the "starting lineup" would be.  He chose 5 boys.  All the girls on the team looked at each other, confused, because we knew that over the course of the season, many of us had higher percentages of correct answers than at least two of the guys who would be playing.  When we asked the coach if he would reconsider, he told us to "just let the boys handle it".  Utilizing the coach's male dream team, our team lost that match.  I was furious, as were other female members of my team.  As a naturally competitive person, it was excruciating to watch my team lose knowing that I could have contributed, and perhaps helped us win.

Furious at the blatantly sexist behavior and statement from my coach, I arrived at school the next day armed with my teen angst, a heaping dose of indignation, and song lyrics.  I printed the lyrics to No Doubt's song "Just a Girl" in a large font and papered the outside of my locker with them.  That morning I was called out of my second hour class to meet with the assistant principal (or Ass Prince as we so cleverly thought of him) in front of my locker.  When he asked me to explain my new locker decor, I recounted the previous day's events.  I was fired up, but I never raised my voice, nor did I use any foul language. The Ass Prince responded by calling me hysterical and telling me to remove the lyrics from my locker.  I refused based on the principle that other students were allowed to decorate their lockers based on athletic teams or other activities, and this was in relation to one of my extra-curricular activities.  Furthermore, those song lyrics are not obscene or in any way inappropriate.  It was then that my school administrator told me that he thought I had mental problems, and that maybe I should go talk to my guidance counselor.  You know, the person who condescended to me the evening before.  The one whose behavior was the reason I made this statement in the first place.  I politely told the assistant principal that I would not be seeking advice from that guidance counselor any time in the near future, and I excused myself to return to my world history class.  I don't know for sure that my conversation with the administration made any difference, but after that, at least one girl played in the season's remaining matches.  As for our coach, he was replaced the following year with a different guidance counselor who is a wonderful woman that nurtured us as a team rather than creating rifts between genders.  She also regularly told us how smart we all were, which certainly didn't hurt our self-esteem.

I consider myself lucky because my experiences with sexism and misogyny have been verbal or intellectual, unlike some of my friends who have experienced sexual assault and violence.  It is an incredibly sad thought to me, though, that I get to consider myself lucky because my experiences thus far haven't involved physical violation of my person.  Because of this I can confidently say that #yesallwomen experience sexism.  I can also say that as a feminist, I think it's time we do something about that.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ben Folds & the SLSO? Splendid!

Charlie Kinzer introduced me to Ben Folds around 1999.  Charlie was one of my best childhood friends, and one of the smartest kids I had ever met.  Back then my friends and I would would spend our nights firing up the dial-up modem and chatting on the ICQ instant messaging system.  As Charlie and I were chatting one night, he told me he was going to send me a song I should hear.  He sent me a copy of "Brick" by Ben Folds Five.  He said it was a great song, and that I would love it.  Fifteen years later, I do love the song.  But lately I've been thinking a lot about the night I first heard it.  I certainly did not understand the subject matter of the song, and now I wonder if Charlie understood the gravity of the lyrics.  I mean, he was the smartest person in our class, so maybe he did understand it.  I certainly didn't.

The second time I was really exposed to the music of Ben Folds was in my friend Kevin's car in 2005.  A group of us were making the trek from Champaign to West Lafayette, IN to watch the Illinois vs. Purdue basketball game.  Kevin was a HUGE Ben Folds fan, and we therefore listened to Ben Fold/Five the entire length of the journey.  At the time, I thought Kevin's devotion to the music was a little extreme, but I can admit I've always liked the way Ben can slip the word "fuck" into so many of his songs.

Over the years I grew more and more fond of the music, and I've been lucky enough to see him in concert a number of times, including last summer with Ben Folds Five.  Right on the heels of that Ben Folds Five concert last year, I found out that Ben would be playing a number of shows in 2014 with orchestras around the country.  Two dates with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra were announced, and that sealed the deal for me.  

I contacted one of my SAI sisters, Amber, who moved back to Missouri a couple years ago, and we got tickets.  We found out that another of our SAI sisters, Clare, would be in attendance the same night with her husband, and we made a plan to meet up for dinner and the show.  A week before the concert, I learned that the guy who taught my saxophone methods class in college would be playing with the SLSO for the concert.  How cool is that?  He's been playing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra this season as well, which is cool, but those shows did not include Ben Folds!  Holmes is so cool.  (Clearly.  Based on the number of times I used "cool" to describe him/his situation.)

I had enjoyed each of the three previous Ben Folds/Five concerts I attended, and this was no exception.  After the orchestra was situated on stage, Folds took to the piano and opened with one of my personal favorites, "Effington".  That song holds a special place in the hearts of Central Illinois fans, because it was inspired by his drive between Effingham, IL and Normal, IL for a show at Illinois State University.  The first part of the show included "Smoke", "Jesusland",  and "Picture Window".  At that point we were treated to the first movement of the piano concerto Ben had spent most of 2013 writing.  He'll soon be performing it with the Nashville Symphony and the Nashville Ballet.

The concerto movement was lovely.  I found it interesting that Ben's posture changed significantly during that piece.  While Folds is known for a more relaxed posture at the piano (sometime including standing in front of, or even on top of the keyboard), for this part of the performance, he sat up straight.  He didn't stomp his foot down on the pedals.  He demonstrated for the audience the removal of the tape he typically wears on his fingers to protect them while they bang into ivory for hours during a show.  He was a different performer.  The music was different, too, obviously.  The word "fuck" was nowhere to be found, for one.  But the music was still distinctively Ben Folds.  The influence of his rock music was apparent, but that only enhanced the concerto movement for me.  I wanted the piece to sound like a piano concerto composed by Ben Folds, and I truly believe he delivered that.

One of the illicit photos I surreptitiously took during the show 

The rest of the first set included "Landed, "Fred Jones pt. 2", and "Steven's Last Night in Town".  The last song of the set was terrific.  One of the few pieces that includes wind instruments in the original version, the orchestra was really able to make that piece come alive.  It kept the energy high going into intermission.

Following intermission (and one of the longest bathroom lines I have seen EVER), Folds and the SLSO took the stage for the second set.  They opened with "Zak and Sara", followed by "Cologne", which was preceded with a humorous story about the birth of the song while Ben was on tour in Europe.  Ben Folds is known by his fans for improvising music on stage.  This often starts with some fan shouting "Rock This Bitch" at the stage.  At that point, Folds will launch into an improvised song about whatever is on his mind at the time.  Thankfully this concert was no different in that regard.  What was pretty magical though, was how he incorporated the orchestra.  The sections of the orchestra were instructed to play different parts as he built the sound up from the bottom.  Over the top of the orchestra, he sang to us about how he was staying at the hotel with the casino (where our friends Clare & Bill stayed!) and the trouble with trying to eat healthy while on tour.  Apparently it's very difficult to eat vegetables when you're getting room service on the regular.

Instructing the instrumentalists on their parts for "Rock this Bitch"

The rest of the set was amazing.  After thoroughly rocking the bitch, he played the unmistakable opening chords to "Annie Waits".  That was actually a really interesting social experiment on audience reactions in different genres, but I'll get to that later.  Next we were treated to a somewhat rare performance of "The Luckiest", which was the first time I had heard him play it live.  That was followed by "Not the Same", which included some more patented Ben Folds on-stage shenanigans.  One of the reasons I really love seeing him live is because he invites audience participation.  For "Not the Same", he broke the audience into three voice parts, taught us a chord change by rote, and invited us to sing along on the chorus. 

Following "Not the Same", he played "Brick", and I thought of Charlie Kinzer.  Is that weird to think of your childhood best friend during a song about a teenage abortion?  Hmmm, that might be a thought to ponder another time.  Anyway, he wrapped things up with "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces" and "Narcolepsy".  After a standing ovation, in which I happily participated, the orchestra left the stage, but Ben returned for an encore.  I'll be honest.  I don't remember what the first song he played was.  I know that for the Sunday night show, he played "Rockin' the Suburbs" first, but that wasn't the case on Saturday night.  He closed out the whole evening with the song "Army", which is one of my favorite Ben Folds songs ever.  I always hope he'll play "Army", but I was interested in whether or not he would perform it with the orchestra on this concert.  The song features a horn break in the middle, and a concert with an orchestra would be the perfect opportunity to perform it.  I have to admit, however, that he played it in my preferred way - by splitting the audience in half and having us sing the horn lines.  I seriously love that he invites audience participation.

Beyond my notes on the individual songs performed, I made notes about the performance as a whole.  I love that the conductor danced throughout the concert, even singing along at times.  You could tell he was an actual fan.  The lighting director for the event also did a great job.  I assume the lighting concept was a watered down version of what happens during a typical Ben Folds show, but seeing in the context of the orchestra concert really changed my perception of the performance.  I thought it might be distracting at first, but I found it totally enhanced my experience.  It was surprisingly wonderful.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the evening for my friend Amber and me was the eclectic mix of patrons at the concert.  There was a fair mix of Ben Folds fans and St. Louis Symphony Orchestra ticket holders.  The audience interactions made this distinction more apparent.  As I mentioned earlier, the song "Annie Waits" has a distinct opening that includes singular claps from the audience before the first verse.  For example:

Many Ben Folds fans in the audience clapped in time as we've been conditioned to do over the years.  The season ticket holders near my seats were noticeably startled when that happened.  Amber and I discussed our own internal struggle about appropriate behavior at the concert.  Both of us bridged the gap between Ben Folds fans and orchestra fans by being rock music loving classically trained musicians.  I would never yell or "WOO!" during an orchestra concert, but I absolutely do during rock shows.  Finding the appropriate response during this concert was interesting to say the least.

It was really a spectacular evening, though.  I was able to spend a night enjoying music I love, performed by musicians I admire (and 1 I know!), with people who bring me great happiness.  It may have taken me two weeks since the concert to finally write about it, but clearly that was because I have a lot of thoughts and feelings on the matter.  If you've made it to the end of this, gold star for you.  When I started writing it, I thought it would be a love letter.  I didn't know it would be a love tome.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Celebrating HIMYM? Splendid!

Kids, I'm going to tell you an incredible story.  A story about How I Met Your Mother

Tonight the series finale airs for one of my favorite sitcoms.  I'm convinced I subconsciously forgot to wear mascara today, because I didn't want to ugly-cry it off during tonight's HIMYM viewing.  I didn't start watching the show when it premiered in 2005, but I think I picked it up in the 3rd season, catching up on previous episodes through Stacey's DVDs.  I've been hooked ever since.

I think one of the reasons I love it so much is because when I started watching it, I related to the characters.  They were about the same age as me, they weren't all working insanely high paying jobs with little experience (except Barney, PLEASE.).  Through the years we've seen the characters all go through some pretty dramatic changes, and I like that.  Because your twenties and thirties are full of change, at least in my experience.  I love that the characters always come back to each other because they are the family they've chosen.

Also, I love Marshall & Lily.

I love that for the duration of the series, the writers have given us so many quotable moments, so many callback jokes, so many high fives. 

I wanted to do a Top 10 list of my favorite episodes, but that was just too difficult, so I had to set some parameters for myself.  Below are my favorite episodes from each of the nine seasons, plus my all-time favorite episode.  Spoilers abound, yo.

Season 1 - "Zip, Zip, Zip"
Marshall and Lily abandon their plans for an anniversary weekend away in favor of a low key weekend at home.  This weekend includes a Quantum Leap marathon that makes my heart, well, leap.  Unfortunately they get stuck in the bathroom while brushing their teeth as Ted and Victoria return to the apartment.

Ted and Victoria are finally ready to sleep together, and the build up to the main event is full of cheesy lines like "I wanna know you, like know your soul."  After Lily and Marshall finally make it out of the bathroom, they mimic the absurdity of Ted and Victoria's conversation, including Lily asking Marshall, "What makes you cry?"

In the same episode, Robin agrees to be Barney's wingman for the evening for his "Bro-ing About Town."  This is some lovely foreshadowing for future seasons and also includes the Freeze Frame Five:

Season 2 - "Slap Bet"
The gang finds out Robin refuses to go to malls but she won't tell them why.  Barney is certain that Robin starred in a porno and sets out to find evidence.  He and Marshall enter into a Slap Bet, with Lily as Slap Bet Commissioner, about the real story behind Robin's past.  To throw them off the scent, she creates an elaborate lie that she got married in a Canadian mall.  Through Barney's search, we find out the truth is that Robin was a Canadian teen pop star named Robin Sparkles.  We are then treated to the masterpiece that is "Let's Go to the Mall", and it is truly magnificent.

This also begins the anticipation for the remaining slaps between Marshall and Barney, as Marshall won the right to slap Barney in the face, as hard as possible, five times throughout eternity.

Season 3 - "Spoiler Alert"
Marshall lost the password to the website where his bar exam results are posted.  Meanwhile, everyone in the group finds out their annoying habits through moments of clarity from their friends.  Lily chews loudly, Robin says "literally" all the time, Ted is a corrector, Barney has a whole slew of issues, and Marshall sings about the mundane things in his life, including but not limited to paying bills and doing laundry.  Robin points out that sometimes he sings nonsense, but since it's always so catchy, the rest of them end up with the ditties stuck in their heads.  For example:
AOBCD8663 turns out to be the missing password, and Marshall can finally find out that he has passed the New York bar exam.  Other highlights include Ted doing ASL, like when he first met Barney at MacLaren's.  I love that Josh Radnor actually knows ASL.

I also find the glass shattering metaphor is so true to life.  Once someone's annoying habit has been pointed out, it's all I can focus on.

Season 3 Honorable Mention - "Sandcastles in the Sand" because Robin Sparkles, y'all!  And the video is jus so magnificent with James Van Der Beek reprising his roll as Simon, plus cameos from Alan Thicke and Tiffany.

Season 4 - "Murtaugh"
Basically Ted has his Murtaugh List of things that he is too old to do anymore.  Barney accepts a challenge to complete the entire list before Ted can complete Barney & Robin's list of "old folks" things.  Hilarity ensues.  Also, Marshall starts coaching Lily's kindergarteners at basketball, and they don't have similar teaching philosophies.

My favorite quote from the episode is when Barney says, "My ear hurts so much and I can hear it," after his self-pierced ear becomes infected.  Barney and Robin attending a rave was also pretty spectacular.

To this day, I still laugh out loud at the teen wolf playing against Lily & Marshall's kindergartner basketball team.  It's so absurd! Lily's request that the kids make him feel welcome despite the fact that he looks different is great.

By far the best part of this episode, for me, is how they tried to hide Alyson & Cobie's pregnancies with flowy shirts, laundry baskets, basketballs & guitars.  The entire second half of the season is pretty spectacular because of that.

Season 4 Honorable Mention - "Naked Man" because it works 2/3 of the time.  And I love the callback to this episode in season 9.

Season 5 - "Say Cheese"
Marshall has planned a great birthday for Lily, but Ted throws a wrench in the plan by bringing a girl he just started dating to the intimate party.  Also, Robin tried to get Barney to take a bad picture.

Anyone who knows me knows that Lily's love for her birthday rivals only mine.  I love that Marshall is as excited about Lily's birthday as she is.  He even creates two games for her: Lillial Pursuit and Gilding the Lily.  I freaking love it.

Robin's eventual success at getting Barney to take a bad picture is also tremendous.
Season 6 - "Natural History"
Admittedly, I never liked Zoe.  At all.  And I wanted to like her, but mostly because I went to college with the actress' younger brother.  But no, Zoe was just totally unlikable to me.  Her husband, The Captain, was also pretty ridiculous, but I love that when Ted introduced himself as Galactic President Superstar McAwesomeville, he went with it.  More people should be able to name themselves.

Hands down, the best storyline in the episode is Barney and Robin going through the museum touching things.  Robin carrying around the penguin and saying he's stuffed gets me every time.  Things take a turn for the touching when Barney finds out that the man he called Uncle Jerry as a young child was actually his father.  It's kind of heartbreaking that he didn't have any more contact with Jerry throughout his childhood because of the trouble Barney caused at the museum as a kid.

Season 6 Honorable Mention - "Hopeless" because of the opening sequence:

Also, because "Bad News" is too sad to make this list.

Season 7 - "Ducky Tie"
This is kind a confusing episode, bouncing back and forth between dinner at Shinjitsu teppanyaki restaurant and the Architect's Ball.  During dinner at Shinjitsu Barney bets Marshall that he can complete all the tricks the chef does in exchange for seeing Lily's boobs (now larger due to her pregnancy).  If Barney loses, he must wear Marshall's ducky tie for one year.  While all this is going on, Ted recounts to the group what happened when he ran into Victoria at the Architect's Ball, which he attended with Robin.

I loved Victoria in Season 1, so I was so excited to see her come back in Season 7 (initially - not a fan of her in the rest of her episodes)!  The best part of the episode for me, though, is Robin's constant reminders to Ted to pick up where he left off in the story.  We all know how annoying it can be to be constantly interrupted during a story, and I love that she keeps reminding him to finish.

Season 8 - "P.S. I Love You"
It's Robin Sparkles 4 y'all!  After Robin comes to Ted's defense when their friends say his new girlfriend is a stalker, Barney goes on another hunt for evidence of why Robin feels this way.  It's revealed that she recorded a song called "P.S. I Love You" and was obsessed with a Canadian celebrity.  We later find out the celebrity was Paul Schaffer.

Highlights of the episode include a conversation of Dobbler vs. Dahmer in terms of pursuing a love interest.  As a way of illustrating the difference, Ted uses Marshall and Lily as an example.  The flashback of Marshall playing ukulele to Lily in major (Dobbler) and creepy minor (Dahmer) keys is lovely.  Also, I love any time Jason Segel plays an instrument - especially a ukulele!
The video for "P.S. I Love You" is a fantastic reference to fellow Canadian songstress, Alanis Morisette's video for "You Oughta Know".  Speaking of "You Oughta Know", Dave Coulier has a cameo, as do Paul Schaffer, Geddy Lee, Jason Preiestly, Alex Trebek, Steven Page, and k.d. lang.  It's like the Canadian lottery!

Season 9 - "How Your Mother Met Me"
This season has been a little more disjointed that previous seasons, since it's supposed to take place during the wedding weekend, but flashes back and forward multiple times each episode.  This episode explains what the mother was doing throughout the series till we meet her - all the instances where she and Ted had near misses.  It also starts with the adorable mother-centric opening theme:

This is a pretty amazing episode full of callbacks since we see the last 9 years through her eyes.  I must admit that I cried within the first 3 minutes of the episode when she loses someone close to her.  I cried especially hard when I saw that he had given her a ukulele for her birthday!  We get to see her at the St. Patrick's Day party where she loses her yellow umbrella, which she leaves behind when she takes her former orchestra camp counselor, Mitch, back to her apartment to give him her cello for his underfunded orchestra program.  That's when she finds out that Mitch is the Naked Man from Season 4.

We see how she meets her roommate Cindy during the lecture on Ted's first day teaching.  We see the aftermath of Ted and Cindy's breakup, which leads to Cindy kissing the mother and telling her, "I might have some stuff to figure out."  We see the mother meet her next boyfriend, Louis, after a gig with her band.  There are Save the Arcadia posters in the background when they meet!

We see her meet some of the gang and anonymously buy Ted a drink.  We see her make the conscious decision to move on with her life after a proposal from Louis.  It's all very sweet.

And now...

All Time Favorite Episode!  From Season 1 - "The Pineapple Incident"

After a night at MacLaren's where Ted drinks multiple shots in succession, the next morning is spent piecing the evening together.  Questions Ted needs to answer include how he sprained his ankle, what happened to his jacket, what phone number is written on his arm, who the girl in his bed is, and of course WHAT ABOUT THE PINEAPPLE?!

The each scene of the episode builds on the knowledge of the previous episode.  We learn that Ted gets put to bed multiple times by his friends, each time, returning to the bar and shouting, "I'm back, babydolls!" Throughout the night he repeatedly calls Robin, he sings Cheap Trick to everyone in the bar, and talks about breaking into the zoo because, "I gotta see some penguins, like, right now!"  (I can relate to this feeling.) Danica McKeller guest stars as Trudy, which is awesome, because WINNIE COOPER FTW!

This episode is just full of hilarious moments as Ted recreates what happened the night before.  Easily my favorite episode ever.

And thus ends my love letter to How I Met Your Mother.  Even the episodes that could be better are still good.  I've grown to love the characters, and the actors for that matter, and I'm going to miss them!  Thankfully the show is all kinds of syndicated, and our apartment has two nearly-complete sets of the series on DVD.