Women’s Pro Soccer and Chicago Red Stars post on Bleacher Report

So, through a strange turn of events I’ve been tapped to write articles for Bleacherreport.com as a Chicago Red Stars correspondent.

Let me explain. The Women’s Profession Soccer League (WPS) launched in April of this year. They have 7 teams, including one in Chicago that plays at Toyota Park. So my mom and I have gone to their two home games thus far and have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It’s great soccer, a great stadium and close to home. Well, I was reading a blog post about the games at Bleacher Report and I noticed the author wrongly attributed two goals. So I left a comment kindly correcting the oversight. The same thing happened on the blog post about the next game, and again I politely pointed out the mistake.

Well, a few days later the author of the posts, John Howell, asks if I would be interested in writing about the Red Stars for the site. I figure what the hey, might as well since I keep pretty up to date about the league anyway. Little did I know this would start a barrage of emails and welcomes from the Red Stars public relations team and the contributors at Bleacher Report. This might have been a bigger task then I thought.

So, I wrote my first official article (a preview of the Mother’s Day match up between the Red Stars and Sky Blue FC from New Jersey) and posted it Tuesday morning.

A screen shot of the article. I recently learned how to take a screen shot and I've been a bit trigger happy. Sorry.

A screen shot of the article. I recently learned how to take a screen shot and I've been a bit trigger happy. Sorry.

If you want to read the full article, click here. It’s a pretty cool site with tons of international and domestic sports reporting. I should be doing several more articles for them in the near future so keep your eyes peeled. I’ll try to update here letting you know when to check there.

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The best 5 minutes I ever spent.

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‘PhotoDimensional’ exhibit incorporates both photography and sculpture at MoCP

In an effort to buy more time to write upcoming posts, I give you a story I wrote on an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Photography.  It also counts as my first published article, which you can view on a real website here.

March 20, 2009 – An imposing wood beam, covered in torn roofing tarp, hangs from the ceiling to the floor. Scattered vertical blinds intertwined with a rumpled bed sheet and other ordinary household items lie nearby. Across from the beam rests a line of cinderblocks, broken and exposed.

It looks like a disaster scene, but that’s the intent.

“A lot of people walk in and then see the piece and are taken aback. They ask ‘Are you open?’ Because it looks like we’re under construction,” said Corinne Rose, education director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago.

The site-specific piece, “Debris Field” by Chicago mixed media artist Heather Mekkelson, is part of the MoCP’s current show “PhotoDimensional.”

Mekkelson uses photos of natural disasters from newspapers and the Internet to influence her work, and then recreates the mood of the picture. While the piece may look haphazard, Rose says Mekkelson uses her background as an artist to complete the piece.

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Infected.

Louisiana State Health Officials passed out questionnaires specifically designed for ReachOut. They asked us specifics about what we had eaten in the past 48 hours and also if we had come in contact with anyone who was sick prior to leaving Chicago. The officials were especially interested in what happened on the bus ride down. Where we had eaten, where had we stopped, and if we’d used the on-board bathroom. As twisted as it sounds, the officials seemed genuinely excited about the disease. One couldn’t stop smiling when she talked about finding the cause of the illness in our stool samples. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

I had been feeling unwell all day, but I thought it was just my body fighting off the sickness. I imagined an epic battle in my stomach between the virus and T-cells. I also imagined it looked something like 300, but I took a little creative liberty there.

Well, as we were filling out the specialized form the tides of the battle began to turn. I barely got done filling in what I had for breakfast that morning before I had to run to the bathroom. The virus had won.

I had almost all the symptoms but I hoped this would be a one and done deal. I expunged whatever was inside and now I’d start to feel better. Boy was I wrong.

After the initial vomit, you get a blinding headache. Lights and noise cause considerable pain. Your stomach usually starts cramping again and the only thing that helps is laying down. After trips to and from the bathroom, you begin to feel the muscle aches. For most, it’s from the middle of the back down. A few even say it’s painful to walk. The only thing you want to do is sleep, and ultimately that’s the only thing that brings you any comfort. It’s a miserable experience.

Compound that with us having to pick up everything and move and you have a truly crappy day. In an effort to not spread the virus to any other camp members and to make those who were ill more comfortable, we were being moved to a hotel in downtown New Orleans. So we had about an hour to pack up all our stuff, sterilize our rooms and beds, and load up the bus.

Once at the hotel we had to be debriefed and put into rooms based on level of sickness. We didn’t want to risk getting more people sick by putting the healthy with the infected. After discussing the game plan for Tuesday, most people went to bed. It had been a long two days for everyone.

It must be noted however, what an astoundingly amazing job the chaperons and executive board members did. From the moment this whole thing started, they’ve been working diligently to care for the sick, but also to remember the healthy. Most haven’t slept since the bus ride, yet they were still up all night taking care of us. Many were sick but fought through it to help out. Considering that we had no returning chaperons and most came on at the last minute, I don’t think they could have done a better job. Also, the response from Columbia College was impeccable. Within a day, they had reserved hotel rooms for 46 highly contagious students at a gorgeous and highly accommodating hotel. So a big thank you to everyone who’s helped us, we hope we can return the favor.

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I’m in an epidemic!

Sort of.

ReachOut is a Columbia College service group that goes to New Orleans every spring break to help with the rebuilding effort. I went last year and had a blast so I was even more excited for this one. 43 students, 6 chaperones, and two bus drivers departed from Chicago at 1pm Saturday, March 21st. We arrived at Camp Hope in Louisiana around 9am Sunday, March 22nd. Between those 20 hours something sinister happened.

Beginning Sunday night, ReachOuters began complaining of stomach pain and nausea.  They both vomited and had diarrhea. Shortly after, several other ReachOut members began complaining of similar symptoms. No one really knew how bad it was until I was awoken at 2am this morning and asked how I was feeling. Soon we found out that almost a third of the group was now sick, with more people complaining about the initial symptoms. By the time 6:45am rolled around, half of ReachOut was reached out.

We’ve just been told that a Louisiana State Health Official will be interviewing us around 2pm today. We will have to tell him or her what we ate in the past 48 hours and if we’ve felt sick in the past 24. We are  also being moved out of Camp Hope and into a hotel in downtown New Orleans.

As of now, victims are experiencing

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • stomach cramping
  • fever/chills
  • exhaustion

We’ve quarantined the sick off into a room. It makes your stomach churn just walking by. You can smell the vomit and bile everywhere. On the bright side, the member who first reported being sick has made a recovery and is now walking around and in good spirits.

The interesting part of this whole ordeal is that no one can really discern what is causing the sickness. At first it was a definite food poisoning , because the first two to show signs had the same meal for lunch. Then we were told it was the contaminated water supply. But all of us have drunk the water and a little more than half have been affected. We’ve also been told it was a contagious disease, because those who were originally helping the sick soon became sick themselves. I’m sure we’ll have more details after the health official gets here, but until then we’ve been told to be extracautious.

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Spring Break Day 1

Everyone was on time, the plans were airtight, and the 20 hour bus ride turned out to be a breezy 15. Something is not right. I don’t trust it.

But everything was right, and everyone was happy. We watched movies (High Fidelity, Idiocracy, and When The Levees Broke) and talked through most of the ride from Chicago to the Crescent City. Arriving Sunday morning at 5am, we grabbed breakfast (IHOP) and then headed to Camp Hope, which would be our home for the next 6 days.

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Camp Hope is based out of an middle school that was flooded in Hurricane Katrina. The classrooms now house bunk beds and there are shower trailers on the hopscotch squares. It’s being torn down in 60 days to build a new school for the community. Camp Hope is looking to move to a different location to continue serving St. Bernard Parish, but they’re not sure where.

Mural in the Cafeteria

Mural in the Cafeteria

Camp Hope is a unique place to say the least. You’re surrounded by people from all different walks of life (currently there are 160 Jewish students and a large Mizzou contingent) and those who’ve donated their lives to serving others. AmeriCorps staffs much of the camp, serving as the kitchen staff and working front desk. This year, we’re also working with them on our daily projects, helping with clean-up and environmental projects.

A lot of ReachOuters are dead tired. Sleeping on the bus was near impossible and those that did manage to catch a few z’s are paying for it now (I looked like a human pretzel, my crick has a crick I’m so sore). Sunday has been pretty chill. We had a brief tour of the facilities by Bruce, the manager of Camp Hope, and had a “getting to know you” and planning session with our posses.

Tonight we’re going to the Los Islenos Festival for some craw fish and music. Tomorrow I’m going with AmeriCorps to help with various local projects. More on that tomorrow.

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I could do that…

Yesterday, for my Reporting and Writing II class, we took a field trip to Chicago’s City Hall to cover a city council meeting. It was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever experienced in my 19 short years. The Joint Committees on Finance and Economics, Capital and Technology Development discussed an ordinance that would create a new website to manage information on TIFs — tax increment financing — districts to make it easier for developers and residents to oversee construction in neighborhoods.

They spent two hours talking about a website.

A website.

"It's a series of tubes!"

"It's a series of tubes!"

In the time it took them to ever so graciously thank the generous aldermen and councilwomen and secretaries and doughnut delivery boys who worked so tirelessly to get this ordinance through (seriously there are less thank yous at the Oscars), I could have made the damn thing myself.

Witness after witness said how difficult it was to find information on TIFs and that the system of finding any information from the city council was flawed.

While sitting there, experiencing what could only be called hell on earth, I came to the realization that I might want to be in politics one day. I know what you’re thinking, “Laura, are you drunk? It’s not even noon.” To which I say “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.”

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