Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Burning Bush

Yesterday afternoon I took Annie out for a nice little run along the canal in our neighborhood.  Scenic and pretty flat, it's a nice little 3 mile-ish round trip that is helping me prepare for the 5 miler at the end of July.  On the way out, I noticed a pile of brush out in the canal, on a little cement divider, that explained the smell of burning wood for the last few minutes.  It seems that someone (though I attributed it to some kids) decided to set the brush on fire that had settled on the canal divider the last time the canal flooded.  Though it was on cement, if the fire became larger, certainly sparks could cross over the canal (which is about 5 or 8 feet wide at this point) to the large trees and brush along the edge.  I thought about the burning brush as I past it, went out to the edge of the trail and turned around.  I passed a lot of people running and biking, but no one else seemed phased by the burning bush.  When I passed it on the return run, I felt my heartbeat quicken (which may be due to the fact that I am still incredibly out of shape) and thought, should I call 911?  Am I that person who is making a big deal out of something insignificant, am I the person that assumes someone else will speak up, or am I the person who saves the day and prevents forest fires (thanks, Smokey)?  Well, after I got home and caught my breath and got Ryan's encouragement to make the call, I did call the Philadelphia fire department who may or may not have thought I was crazy.  Either way, I spoke up.  But, I think a lot of times I see things I don't like or that cause concern, and I choose to turn my head.  I assume someone else will address it, or I don't want to deal with the consequences (maybe being perceived as a crazy person), or I'm just 'too busy' to get involved.  But shouldn't we always speak up?  If we really care about one another, we should always speak out on another person's behalf or do whatever we need to protect our communities, regardless of the consequences.  Easier said than done, clearly.
I am not really clear on whether God was speaking to me in the burning bush, but I am certain that it made me think of that story of Kitty Genovese (props to Ryan for remembering her name... I kept googling fragments of the story to no avail) that I learned about in Philosophy class in college.  She was stabbed to death in New York city and though at least a dozen, or some argue upwards of 40, people heard and saw parts of the attack and didn't intervene sufficiently...  It led to lots of research and theoretical development of the 'bystander effect' and the way that groups of people diffuse responsibility for a given situation.  (there have also been significant arguments that it is more of a parable than a factual re-telling of events) Nonetheless, I don't think I saved anyone's life by calling 911 yesterday... but it did make me think about my responsibility to my community, and it made me ask myself if I am willing to risk speaking up when I see something that is troubling, dangerous, or not conducive to building community.  I don't tend to encounter burning bushes in my daily life, but I certainly do get faced with a variety of situations that I can respond to: with my own self-interest, or with a concern for the greater good (and this might involve risk).  So maybe God really was speaking to me in that burning bush- or maybe I was hallucinating from the heat! 
Ryan, Annie and I will pack into the trusty honda fit in about 24 hours to begin our 9 day vacation of glory!  First stop is Dartmouth, MA to spend a few nights with mom and dad... already on the docket is as much beach time as possible, a visit to the brewery Saturday for their fourth of july bbq party, perhaps a day trip to Martha's Vineyard, and some more beach time.  Hopefully time for a visit to the waterfront mecca of delightful seafood and ambiance known as the Back Eddy, and overall, just time with mom and dad is going to be the best treat of all.
Tuesday morning we will depart for New Hampshire, spend the day in Portsmouth and on to Maine where we will spend the remainder of our vacation... a few nights camping in Freeport, Maine on Casco Bay (hopefully connecting with a BC friend and a third (?) cousin along the way) and then on to Belfast, Maine to visit some family friends and all the goodness that exists in Northern Maine!  Then we (may never) come back to Philly on Sunday...  Nonetheless, expect some fun pictures and stories upon our return.  Hopefully I will get to blog once or twice, though internet access will be sparse at best.  And honestly, that's alright with me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Community... and all that comes with it!

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” -Dorothy Day

There is definitely something intrinsic to our human condition that compels us to desire and seek out community.  That feeling of 'belonging' and 'connecting' with others fulfills our need to feel complete despite the very essence of our incomplete humanity.  If I think back on my life, most (if not all) of the memories I have are of experiences I've shared with other people.  I remember one of my first experiences of a faith community when I was in probably sixth grade and I participated in the vibrant youth group at our local Episcopal (gasp!) church in Massachusetts.  We'd gather together for what was marketed as social events, but there was always a strong faith component.  The highlight of the year was the annual ski trip to New Hampshire.  We'd pile into mini-vans with the brave parents who volunteered to chaperone 40 middle school students, and head north.  We spent the days on the slopes, the evenings around the fire telling stories and laughing until we cried.  Somehow the minister always tied faith into those experiences, in the form of having us write letters to God and ourselves, or 'casually' bringing up faith after the fifth cup of hot chocolate.  These moments of introduction to an authentic faith community are perhaps what drew me back to the Episcopal church when I was disillusioned and angered with the Catholic Church over the sex abuse scandal and the lack of fellowship and servant leadership I felt some 15 years later as a young adult.  I found a similar crew of people at an Episcopal church in Philadelphia.  Though we didn't need adult chaperones and (unfortunately) didn't go skiing together, I felt that same sense of authentic community and spiritual companionship with those people.  And yet, something was unfulfilled in my heart.  As much as my heart broke when I thought about the sex abuse scandal and the reactions of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, I couldn't deny the fact that I was Catholic.... it is in my bones, and being a part of the little 'c' catholic and big 'C' Catholic community is in the very essence of my being.  It felt like I was denying a part of who I am.  Just like some of us might not 'like' every element or people in our families, we can't help but deny our affiliation and the impact our familial community has on our lives.  So even though I can get frustrated, disappointed or saddened with the Catholic Church, it seems like I can't leave it even if I try, because it is within me.  And that desire to be in community is most authentically fulfilled, for me, within the Catholic Church.
I am constantly challenged in my lackluster commitment to the Church by the witness of many others who maintain their identity even in the face of hurt and confusion.  The Boston Globe and Huffington Post had two interesting pieces about GLBT folks in the Boston area who remain Catholic despite the Church's teaching against homosexual behaviors (CLARIFICATION: the Catholic Church does not teach that one's sexual orientation is sinful, but rather teaches that acting on a same-sex sexual orientation is sinful... a distinction between the person and the act-- it seems people have the misconception that the Church hates people who are gay, which is not authentic Catholic theology).   This came up because of a flurry of controversy when a Boston area Church advertised a mass that would be part of the Boston Pride festival with the theme 'All are Welcome'... and then the mass was squashed by the hierarchy... and then responses from all sides and from the top down have floated all over news sources.  But check these articles out: Worship in the Face of Rejection and How to Create a Welcoming Catholicism  Regardless of your religious or political beliefs, it does speak powerfully to our intrinsic desire for community, acceptance and love...  And perhaps sheds some light on what we need to consider as we move forward in developing those communities.
And, while you're at it, check out the video below (totally unrelated)....  I'm feeling a little behind the technological times- the Pope has an iPad and he tweets?!?!  I thought blogging was a big step!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Do you speak Ignatian?

I had the honor and blessing of participating in an inspiring and grounding workshop on Saturday with a slew of awesome people from the east coast who work or live in the Ignatian spirit.  Folks traveled from as far away as South Carolina and Jersey (!) to gather at Saint Joe's Prep in Philadelphia for a day of brainstorming, dreaming and fellowship.  As the day happened, I was overcome with a sense of being 'at home' and grateful for the experiences I have had in the Ignatian tradition in college at Saint Joe's and in grad school at BC.  Overall, the idea of a shared language and experience bound all of us together.  I was perhaps the youngest person there, but not by far.  There were lay men and women, as well as some Jesuits and even an SSJ!  Though we came from different towns, different work experiences and different life experiences we all had a shared language that enabled us to delve deep and share the state of our hearts after knowing each other for hours, or even just minutes.
That is the (or one of the many) gifts of Ignatian spirituality I think... being able to tap into the deepest core of your being comfortably (though not always with ease) and sharing it/having it received with grace and care.  I didn't have to explain myself to these people, rather I could share a couple of sentences or ask a question and immediately it resonated with the people in my group.  Being a part of the rich Ignatian tradition is something I often take for granted, but being in this setting reminded me how much of an impact it has had on who I am, and also made me realize how much I miss being immersed in the Ignatian world.  Phrases like 'cura personalis', 'magis' or 'amdg' just don't make sense to the average person on the street.  More than that though, approaching the world from an Ignatian mindset might not make sense to the average person on the street.  It is truly a blessing, and empowering, to be around people who 'get it' and are struggling to live it.
Part of the focus of the day looked at the future of the spirituality of Saint Ignatius (the spiritual exercises for you non-Ignatian folk), basically wondering how can it better be brought to the world.  Listening to some of the people share about their experiences in Jesuit high schools and colleges that are so deeply ingrained with Ignatian spirituality made me extremely jealous.  Faculty, staff and administration gather for service projects and faith sharing, students are engaged in the spiritual exercises, Ignatian leadership institutes (some for students, some for faculty/staff) are thriving...  I wish my school had that, I found myself regrettably thinking.  And then, the challenge.  One of the questions we were posed with focused on the blockages that prevent Ignatian spirituality from being pervasive in our places of ministry.  Well, I guess I could say that no one else has brought it in a formal manner (beyond me teaching the examen in my classes) to my ministry.  I honestly can't say no one supports it because, well... I haven't exactly tried.  That was a bit of an embarrassing and humbling moment when one of my groupmates decided to share this story with the larger group (ie, that I'd been at a school for six years and was consistently disillusioned and frustrated by the lack of faith-sharing, etc. among faculty... without ever making ANY effort to create it myself!) but also a moment of great challenge and excitement.  And as those Ignatian folks tend to be, everyone was supportive and encouraging, coming up to me at break offering copies of their faculty faith sharing models, volunteering to come speak or do anything in the role of spiritual directors, etc.  Right.  So, really, why isn't anyone doing this?!?  Oops...  I mean, why am I not doing this?  
In the way that only my husband can do, after an emotionally exhausting but also inspiring day, he captured my heart with a low-key Saturday night of dinner and a movie.  Movie choice?  The Mission.  His choice...  Obviously amazing, even the millionth time around.  At one point during the workshop when several of us were bemoaning that we weren't immersed in an Ignatian institution (at least I am at an SSJ school- there were folks there who worked in 100% secular settings), and someone made an interesting observation/connection to the days of missions and the beginnings of the Jesuits.  People were set out into the world, often on their own or in small groups, and worked to spread the message of Saint Ignatius to the world.  They gathered strength from one another, often in the forms of letters and prayers, but would not see each other for perhaps years at a time.  So, what if we are the missionaries (as was suggested)?  It was beautiful and humbling to ponder (as I obviously don't see myself on par with Francis Xavier) but did offer some practical connections to how I often feel.  And as such, presents a different way of perceiving our reality- instead of seeing what is wrong and trying to find a place where that 'wrong stuff' doesn't exist and instead go where everything seems to be 'right', we see ourselves as present in order to help transform and contribute to the solutions.  Is this too messianic sounding though?  I'm not sure how I feel about it...  But it does seem glaringly apparent that I am being challenged to consider doing something (about the lack of a 'faith community' in my place of work) instead of complaining about the lack of it.  Thanks God.  No really, thanks :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Time for Change!

Speaking out about his decision to support same-sex marriage in New York, Republican senator Roy McDonald made it clear that it is time for change in how we do politics...  WARNING- he uses some strong language folks:  "You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn't black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing," McDonald, 64, told reporters.
"You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, fuck it, I don't care what you think. I'm trying to do the right thing. I'm tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I'm trying to do the right thing, and that's where I'm going with this." (full article here)
I love the way he expresses the complexities of our lives, that things aren't always as straight forward or clear as we'd like them to be.  New York lawmakers left Albany last night without a vote on the issue of same sex marriage but will quite possibly vote today.  Though this is certainly an issue dear to my heart as my brother hopes to legally wed his partner of over ten years in June of 2012 in New York, McDonald's challenge reaches beyond the realm of politics or the question of the constitutionality of same sex unions.  We face divisions in every context of our lives: in the work place, in our families, in our neighborhoods, and in our friendships.  Why do we constantly try to divide along the lines of 'us vs. them' or 'black v. white'?  Maybe it seems easier, if we can neatly categorize people and situations, then we don't have to give much effort or thought to a situation and just easily wash our hands of it.  But, well, life isn't always that easy.  Sometimes you need to get your hands dirty, take a risk, and well, if people have a problem with that... (see McDonald's response above to finish the sentence)...  
Now this all sounds nice, warm and fuzzy, but the challenge is how we live it out.  Yesterday I was given a new opportunity at work.  It will enable me to work in different roles with different people in different settings (lots of difference, huh?).  In my 'yes' response, it made me realize I am saying 'yes' not just to the opportunity, but I am saying 'yes' to trying to work towards what is right and good.  And this takes honesty with myself, and really challenging myself to be who I want to be.  I need to realize that life isn't always black and white, or what you see on the surface is certainly never a representation of what is really going on.  I'm excited for new challenges and opportunity!
These last few days have also been fertile ground for finalizing plans for our first camping trip.  Tent has been purchased, sleeping bags, lanterns and air pump for necessary air mattress are ready to go.  I've checked out camping sites along the coast in Maine and New Hampshire, so we just need to book our space and we're on our way!  We'll be heading up the week of July fourth, spending a few days with my family in Massachusetts, then heading to NH and ME to camp and visit some great friends and family along the way (hopefully!) all with Annie in tow.  Ryan has pointed out there is a distinct possibility we might not come back... It's definitely going to involve serious post-vacation depression.  But let's not think of that now!  Instead, I want to focus on the many adventures that await us in two weeks!  I brought Annie to get her shots yesterday and our vet had advice about another camping destination.  Apparently, up at the Delaware Water Gap, you can rent canoes and then they drive you up to the top of a mountain and you canoe down at your pace, with your camping gear in the canoes, and then you stop when you want and there are camping sites all along the shore.  Um, yes please!  And it will contribute to fulfilling two of my goals of camping and exploring water sports...  delightful.  Perhaps a fall weekend?  Any takers?

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."  Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Embracing Joy

Embracing Joy!

I have to admit, I am stealing this blog idea from one of my favorite blogs and sources of some (unhealthy) delicious recipes : use real butter.  The author of the blog takes amazing, breath taking photographs in addition to blogging about life, celebrating the things that bring her great joy and recipes that use real butter!  Her blog today is focused on celebrating the things in our life that bring us joy, be it the most simple moments of a smile, or a hug, or the extravagant vacation you'll never forget.
Yesterday I took a call on the suicide hotline from a young woman who recently lost her brother and is struggling to find joy and meaning in her life.  She is a successful and passionate nurse who cares for special needs children, and just listening to her talk it was obvious how much empathy and love she has for her patients.  But she couldn't see that in herself, in fact, she couldn't see any of the good things about herself that people tell her each day.  That's a symptom of depression for sure.  As we continued to talk, I heard her voice lighten (not because I miraculously healed her!) but because she started to talk about the little things that give her joy... the moments of seeing a student get well enough to accomplish a task that was previously impossible, or sitting and helping a child read a book.  We found some places where she could volunteer over the summer months when her work schedule is a bit more sporadic, and she can still have the outlets for joy in her life.  And it made me think, finding that which brings you joy really is the best medicine.  It gives you a reason to get out of bed, can lighten the load you're carrying in your heart, and even if just for a moment, you're able to laugh, to smile, and to feel your heart swell with joy.
I thought I'd share a few things that have brought me joy over the last few weeks, but ask you to share: what brings you joy?
My good friend from college, Caroline, has one of the happiest and most adorable babies.  Little Henry will wake up in the middle of a nap giggling instead of screaming, has a wicked laugh and just the cutest little pudgy legs.  I've been blessed to see him twice this week (and each time plotted a way to fit him in my hand bag on the way out) and the wonder and happiness in his eyes is enough to put any worries or stresses at ease.  The world just stops for a moment when you look at him.  Here he is in his little duck towel getting ready to snuggle in for the night!

Annie made me literally fall over laughing last night... she loves to 'play' with Bubba by chasing him around and then nibbling on his furry back.  Bubba sits there and lets her nibble, somewhere in between tolerating and secretly enjoying the attention.  I didn't actually see Annie nibbling last night, but moments later she was caught in the act:

This winter my family was able to escape the snow and frigid temperatures and spend a week together in Saint John's (USVI) to celebrate my mom's 60th.  It was a week of hilarity and sun, and this moment captures some the laughter we had-- I'll leave it up to the imagination as to what we are laughing it!

One of the greatest joys in my life is being on the coast.  This easter Ryan and I brought Annie up to MA to visit with my family.  It was Annie's first time at the beach as far as we know.  Though she was afraid of the waves at first, we got her to see the fun at the creek, a place I spent most of my own childhood splashing in the shallow, warmer water!

Finally, watching my husband (the closet scientist) brew his own beer is something that brings me great joy.  Obviously I enjoy tasting the fruits of his labor :) but more than that, I love seeing how much he enjoys all the calculations and science-y stuff that goes into the brewing process.

Please share in a comment what is something or many things that bring you joy?  Let's inspire one another :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Inspiration is all around us... if we just open our eyes

Sometimes we just go through the motions, without even realizing it.  We get up, get ready for the day, have breakfast, work work work, prepare dinner, eat, rest and repeat.  We don't think much beyond what we're doing in the moment, and we complete each task before moving on to the next piece of our day.  Though there might be times where our schedules and routine resemble this monotonous routine, I have to ask: is this really it?  Is this what life becomes?  I hope not!  Though I find comfort in routine and familiarity, I hope that life never becomes quite that predictable.  When the summer months arrive and my routine changes dramatically, it forces me to realize how I often become a creature of habit, perhaps a little too entrenched in the status quo. 
This morning I got to spend some time with a former student of mine who has finished up her second year at an amazing Jesuit college.  She is preparing to head to El Salvador for the fall semester, has been interning at a social work agency this past spring and has taken advantage many other campus ministry-type opportunities in college.  I loved hearing her stories, her questions and found myself feeling a twinge of jealousy.  I think what I was jealous of is how open her world seems to be... that nothing is set in stone and she can change her major or consider an entirely different path.  But then again, why do I seem to think that my world isn't just as wide open?  Though we get entrenched in our routines and ways of being, what's to say we can't drastically change them or create new opportunities for ourselves?  I'm not talking solely about 'work' or how we pay the bills...  I am even talking about how I spend my weekends, my free time in the afternoons, who I talk to and what we talk about, etc.
I have to be honest, the thought of living in dorm rooms, eating Ramen noodles or taking college math classes does not excite me in any way.  So although there was a twinge of jealousy for this college student's life, I am deeply grateful for what my life has become and what I've learned along the way.  Being married to Ryan has helped me to realize that the world really is wide open.  I'm pretty lucky, that I have someone who supports and encourages me- challenging me to not be complacent and continue to grow and foster my desire to learn.  There is something beyond comforting and reassuring in knowing that I face the wide-open world and unknown possibilities with someone by my side and on my team. 
I am excited to share that I've been invited to participate in a day of reflection with the Jesuit Collaborative, an organization that does just that: collaborate with people in the Jesuit family.  I am beyond overjoyed that a friend of mine from graduate school (who also, as it turns out, knew my mom before I was even alive- don't you love how small our world really is?!) is involved with the Collaborative and suggested my name to be included in the workshop this weekend.  I am grateful for the opportunity to re-connect with my Ignatian roots and spend some time meeting other folks in my area.  There is a shared experience and language that comes from being educated at a Jesuit institution, and I look forward to meeting some like-minded folks.  Although this is just a one day event, I am excited to maybe meet, network and be inspired.  It helps to sustain that fire and passion that's been growing inside of me for years now.  If I were still in graduate school, I'd be packing my bags to head up to BC this weekend.  Although I've mentioned there is a lot about living in dorms that is lack luster, I do miss being a part of such an amazing, diverse and inspirational learning community in the summers.  I am grateful that I can spend part of the weekend with folks like the ones who will be studying at BC this summer. 

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

-attributed to Pedro Arrupe

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Could you even imagine this?

While getting some work done on my car, I found myself parked in the waiting room at the dealership watching CNN for an hour.  I thought it was interesting that they had to state they will only tune the TV to CNN because of the potentially offensive and inappropriate programming on other stations.  Nonetheless, I welcomed the opportunity to catch up on world affairs while the car got fixed.  One story has particularly stuck with me, and I really can't even conceptualize that it is real.  Maybe you caught wind of this last week: women in Saudi Arabia are using social networking sites like Facebook to organize a protest of the law forbidding women from driving a car.  What?!  Here's the story from the NY Times.  I just can't believe it.  I mean, I guess I already knew this was a law, and am familiar with the laws forbidding women from publicly mixing with men, etc.  But really if you think about it, it's mind-boggling to imagine a society where that really happens.  I was sharing my dis-belief over cocktails with some of my girlfriends last night.  Here we were, walking down Main Street, stopping in a couple bars to enjoy happy hour specials, freely talking about whatever we wanted, to whomever we wanted.  We didn't have to worry about getting arrested or escorted home for wearing a short dress, fitted jeans or speaking openly to a man.  And that is just something that never crosses my mind in terms of being afraid of getting arrested.  Once in awhile my heart races as I roll through a stop sign and see a police car coming in the opposite direction, but that's about as close to facing the law that I come on a daily basis.  As a woman, but more importantly, as a human being, I want to feel more outrage and transform that emotion into action... so that no human beings have to live under such inhumane and unjust conditions.  I guess my bigger question is, why aren't we more outraged as a world?  How can some countries, such as Kenya and Uganda, consider making homosexuality punishable by death?  This makes me think of the movie Hotel Rwanda, which documented the genocide in 1994 that saw the mass murder of the Tutsi minority (estimates say 800,000 people were killed, with focus on women and children as an attempt to ensure there was not another generation of Tutsis) in under 100 days.  It's a great move if you've never seen it (obviously not a light-hearted flick) that tells the story of a hotel manager who used his connections and passion to turn the hotel into a refugee camp, thus saving almost 1,200 Tutsis from the slaughter.  I am thinking of that movie, not because it has the obvious connection of a story of inhumanity on the continent of Africa (we certainly have enough inhumanity in the US, too...) but because of a particularly poignant scene about the international world's reaction (or lack thereof) to the genocide.  Paul, the hotel manager, is talking to a journalist who was able to leave the safety of the hotel grounds to get some video footage of the horrendous slaughter, and it is going to be the lead story on the national news in the US that evening.  Paul says: "I am glad that you have shot this footage and that the world will see it. It is the only way we have a chance that people might intervene." The journalist, Jack, responds: "Yeah and if no one intervenes, is it still a good thing to show?" And Paul is totally aghast: "How can they not intervene when they witness such atrocities?" but I think Jack might be right: "I think if people see this footage they'll say, "oh my God that's horrible," and then go on eating their dinners."
It's a lot easier to sit here in the comfort, ease and security of my living room and write this critique of the inaction of the international community in Rwanda, or in Saudi Arabia.  The challenge is, what do I do?  Do I change the channel because it's too depressing to hear the stories on the news of injustice and suffering?  If I do stay on the channel and hear the story, but do nothing, which is worse?!  This is a perennial question for me, and as a social justice teacher, I often grapple with these questions with my students.  But I think for awhile, I've kept a distance from getting as personally involved or concerned.  And now it seems I can't do that anymore, even if I want to because it's just bothering me too much.  Maybe part of what I can do is to keep educating myself, discuss and learn in community, and work on softening my heart to the suffering of others.  Dorothy Day said it best:
"The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?"

Friday, June 17, 2011


Yesterday (and to be continued today) I began the gruesome (yet also quite gratifying) project of sorting through the endless boxes and bags of miscellaneous stuff that has been jammed into our closets over the last few years.  I found it to be a very satisfying experience to shred through accumulated junk mail and credit cards offers (7 bags worth of shreds!) and finally throw out the charges for several cell phones that have long since gone extinct...

Some other finds that I have finally decided to part with:
1) Three pink scarves I had to buy 2 years ago because they were on clearance for only 3 dollars each!  I did give away 2 of the original 5 I purchased, but as Ryan points out every time they spill out of the closet, they are really collecting dust and will most likely never be re-gifted.
2) The set of glasses that Ryan bought (after we got married and got a million sets of beautiful glasses) for about $5 at Wegman's.  I thought I could give it to a cousin for a shower gift, but I ended up going in on a group gift and really, the box is starting to tear and fall apart after being shoved in different closets over the last 2 years.  I think we are seeing a trend here, we can't say no to a deal even if it is the most impractical purchase... which brings me to some other items I am purging (you will see this is a familial problem.)
3) A vacuum sealer.  Ryan's parents gave this to us for an early Christmas gift a few months ago.  No doubt his dad got it on super close-out from one of the daily deal emails he gets!  They are so well-intentioned and even went so far as to get us an extra set of refill bags!  But unlike Ryan's awesome sister who raises and recently slaughtered her first set of meat chickens, I don't tend to have excessive amounts of meat around to deep freeze!  And if we do buy meat in bulk, we get it at Wegman's who happens to vacuum seal it for you!  Now this brings up a deeper level of issues for Ryan... to give something away that his parents gave us or him as a gift.  (we had quite an entertaining email exchange yesterday as I asked his permission to seek a new home for some of the items I unearthed in our closets!)  He was recently able to part with some shirts he'd received from them about 4 or 5 years ago that he'd never worn, because he just 'feels bad' like it's being disrespectful or rude to thoughtlessly toss something you were given as a gift.  And I totally get that, and have some items in my closet that haven't seen the light of day in a few years but have emotional meaning and attachment.  But, the emotional rush that comes with having closets that don't burst forth when you open the door is a little more gratifying than the emotions I associated with the never-used items.  Sorry if I seem ungrateful- but instead will pass along the vacuum sealer and other similar items to people who will actually use them.  So it's almost like I'm trying to respect and honor the gift by making sure it's put to good use :)  I did, on the other hand, decide to keep the cupcake holder I got for Christmas last year.  Though I have only used it once, I do think it will come in handy somewhere down the road when I have kids and they want to bring cupcakes to school.  I have memories of my mom using the boxes you get from a department store when buying clothing and the cupcakes always ended up a little lack-luster by the time I made it to school.  Even though it might not be used for awhile, I think it is worth holding on to! 
4) Hot pink snuggie...  Still in the box.  I was given this as a gag from a student a few years ago and got a great laugh out of it.  And I thought, I'll hold on to this, and give it as a gag gift to someone else.  Two years later, I found it in the back of the closet.  Snuggies aren't even 'in' anymore, are they?
Oh, wait... apparently there is a new line of 'designer' snuggies.  Anyone interested in a pink one?  Otherwise it's going to salvy's!
5) Perhaps the most embarrassing- I finally emptied out the bag of odds and ends stuff that I took when I cleaned out my classroom LAST year.  Yep, a bag full of some articles, a couple of books, a can of soup (which actually was still 'good') some students' graded final papers, a ridiculous amount of pens and paperclips, etc.  I'm getting a leg up and have already cleaned out the bag from this year to prevent this hoarding tendency to continue!

It does feel good to be able to open a closet and have the only things on the floor be a vacuum and a broom, and not an insurmountable pile of stuff.  The feeling of accomplishment is great, and it also helps to know that all the 'stuff' that is just collecting dust in my house might actually be useful to other people (already got takers on the vacuum sealer and wine chiller, sorry folks).  I'm not at the level of being featured in a Real Simple spread on organization... but hey, I've made a few steps in the right direction! 

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.” -Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How did we get here?

Part of why I wanted to start a blog was to be more intentional and live life to the fullest instead of just letting things happen and then responding to the.  This morning I have found myself pondering the question (which is multi-layered for sure): How did I get here?  And no, I don't need the birds and the bees talk- I do teach human sexuality to high school students :)  I mean, how did I get to this very moment in my life... all the experiences I've had or didn't have, people that I met or didn't meet, the conversations I missed or engaged in that changed my life or opinion, etc.  The list goes on.  But in the end, it is clear that there was some force at play in the midst of all of those little 'pieces' that led me to this point in my life.  There is a beautiful new country song by Darius Rucker (formerly of Hootie and the Blowfish!) called 'This'.  I love this song and and was reminded of why when a friend reflected this week on its meaning in her own life.  Here are a few of my favorite lyrics:
And it's crazy to think that one little thing
Could have changed all of it
Maybe it didn't turn out like I planned
Maybe thats why I'm such, such a lucky man
For every stoplight I didn't make
Every chance I did or I didn't take
All the nights I went too far
All the girls that broke my heart
All the doors that I had to close
All the things I knew but I didn't know
Thank God for all I missed
Cause it led me here to this

It is such an interesting way to look at life and how all the little pieces of our life fall into place 'just so' and could easily have gone entirely different ways.
Having a few days off from school, I have enjoyed the opportunity to re-connect with people I haven't seen in awhile due to crazy schedules, etc.  And it really reminds me how many different relationships and experiences have shaped me into who I am today.  These are all of the positive and life-giving moments that have made me who I am today.  But there have also been times of darkness and desolation where it felt like I had fallen into a black hole and would never get out.  Those experiences have certainly been just as formative (if not more) than the other more life-giving experiences.  Yesterday I spent a few hours answering the phones at the crisis hotline and had a couple of conversations with a young man that has particularly stuck with me.  Let's call him Chris.  He was probably in his late 20's, and had recently broken up with his girlfriend of over 4 years.  They'd lived together for three of the four years, and as far as he could see, were getting ready to get married.  When she decided to end the relationship (and subsequently start dating someone else almost immediately), Chris' world was turned upside-down.  His entire identity had become about their relationship, and as such he was struggling to get out of bed, to see a light at the end of this tunnel or to find hope in the future.  His depression and suicidal thoughts gave him the impetus to call our hotline (thankfully) and the great news is that he realized he needed help, and after two phone conversations, he agreed to access it.  I felt such empathy for him, imagining how it must feel to lose a person who has become such an integral part of your daily life and identity.  It's almost like a death.  And yet, I know (though he can't see or know this right now) that he will heal and grow from this loss... and be a better person, stronger, more self-aware and confident because of this experience.  Isn't that what life is all about?  Growing, learning, being challenged and fulfilled? 
It's nice to sit back and reflect on the positive experiences that have made me who I am today and feel all warm and fuzzy about it.  But I think it's also important to sometimes look back on those times of desolation because I think we can learn even more about ourselves in and through that darkness and pain (the things we want to forget about most).  
It's ironic- as I am writing this, I have Rachael Ray on in the background.  One of Ryan's favorite shows is 'Bizarre Foods' with Andrew Zimmern, and he is a guest on RR today.  I never knew, but he was an addict and homeless at one time in his life.  Today he is happily married, successful TV personality and a happy, fulfilled person.  Their conversation is centered on why doesn't he talk more about his experiences of addiction and homelessness...  we don't want to go 'there' as a culture, and like to stay in the warm fuzzy places.  But the reality is, as we all know, is that it's not always warm and fuzzy! 
As Rachael said, it's all about the human condition :)  Here's a link to the story and the work that Andrew is doing with the Travel Channel for the 100,000 Homes Campaign: Rachael and Andrew
I'm going to stick with this idea for a bit, of remembering and giving thanks for the many experiences, both painful, life-giving,  and the days in between, that have brought me here to this!

"People are like stained - glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."  -Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The glories of being a teacher

I have been fortunate to be a high school teacher for the last six years at an amazing institution.  My students are some of the best and brightest, and also some of the most compassionate and spirited young women who certainly give me great hope for the future.  The school motto 'Spes Messis in Semine' is drilled into the girls' heads from day one and literally means 'The hope of the harvest is in the seed'.  So it's my job to contribute to nurturing and helping that seed sprout.  However, we also get an amazing break from harvesting for a couple of months each year!  Obviously the time is spent doing some amount of planning, brainstorming, evaluating, etc. in addition to making some extra money to make up the difference of the catholic school teacher salary.  Before I do all of that stuff, I have two weeks off and yesterday was the first day of 'break' for me!  Hoooray!  It was started off by an amazing evening Sunday with our faith sharing group.  One of the biggest challenges and points of consideration came to me in response to listening to excerpts from Ignatius' exercises about interior freedom and the ultimate question: In what ways do I tend to control my life and see it as my possession instead of God's gift to me? 
That one knocked me down a peg, and also made me chuckle at perhaps what my motivations are in embarking on the blogging adventure.  Perhaps there is some room for reflection, in terms of my approach and attitude about 'my' life.  Who is really in control, anyways?  And what does that even mean?  I think one of the most significant elements I need to spend some time with is letting go of some control.  This can be control over struggles with relationships (both personal and professional), control over the future and what I think 'needs' to happen in order for happiness and some level of comfort to be achieved.  And in order to do that, I think I need to do some listening.  I've been doing a lot of talking lately, to people in my life, on this blog, and even to God.  I'll probably keep up the level of talking (especially since school is out!) but I hope to up the level of listening. 
As I write this entry, I am sitting on my deck, enjoying the sun, a cup of coffee and a low-fat blueberry muffin I created yesterday!  First attempt at baking healthily for my friend Danielle and her twin two year old boys (did I mention she will give birth to two more twins next Tuesday).  Danielle said she loved the muffins (hopefully she was being honest) but also noted that if she wasn't used to eating healthy food, she might have noticed the difference.  They were made with whole wheat flour, sugar free applesauce, fat free yogurt, ff egg substitute (which somehow ended up all over the kitchen floor), lemon zest, real sugar and delicious blueberries.  It was such a blessing to spend time with Danielle and hear about her life as a mom and the desire to re-connect with a faith sharing group (she is thinking she will join us Sunday night- you know, two days before she gives birth to twins) and to do the 19th annotation of Ignatius' spiritual exercises this fall.  This is a 'retreat in every day life' in which you dedicate a certain amount of time to prayer/meditation/spiritual reading, etc. each day and meet regularly with a spiritual director.  So she is going to do it with 4 kids under age 3.  I dropped out of it after 2 months in college because I 'didn't have enough time'!  Ha!  Her organization and priorities are something I admire.
Something exciting on the horizon- there was a groupon yesterday for a two hour kayaking adventure for two... and much to my surprised, I received a test last night that some friends also purchased the groupon!  Here's to exploring watersports this summer!  Yippee!
Hoping to fill my day today with lots of cleaning, organizing and a trip to the salvation army.  The energy and force I used to clean out my classroom last week (I found stuff in the closets from teachers and student projects when I was in college and/or high school... probably don't need those anymore!) needs to be harnessed and used on our bulging closets.  For some reason, I just feel like I need to listen to Eminem's song about cleaning out the closets!  I will keep you posted if I find anything good!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Adventures in wonderland

On Saturday night, Ryan and I went out for the last leg of an extended birthday celebration (I'm feeling the love) for a delightful dinner.  Ryan's cousin lives in the neighborhood where we ate, and so earlier in the week we connected about trying to get together for a drink afterwards.  She is one of those people who has an amazing, contagious laugh and who knows how to make people feel comfortable.  Every time I see her at family holidays, weddings, and birthdays we have a great time.  And yet, though she lives all of 15 minutes from us, I've never taken her up on the offer of getting together for drinks, etc.  Well, in the spirit of being intentional and connecting with people who I've neglected before (goal # 22!) we did get together- and laughed so hard I was crying!  It is truly a blessing to be able to connect with someone who has shared experiences (being in the same family, trying to decided if it's worth living in the city vs. moving out to where you can afford more space, trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up or what life is all about, etc.) and know you're not the only one who is a little bit (or a lot bit) uncertain at times.  Needless to say, I will be taking her up on the offers of getting together again soon.
Sunday brought a day of adventure for Ryan, Annie and I.  One of my friends from my faith sharing group has set a goal for herself to go on at least one long hike per month.  She lent me the book she is using (I will be purchasing my own copy: Best Hikes) and Ryan and I thumbed through and chose our destination: The John Heinz Wildlife Preserve... in Southwest Philly.  Yes, that area right next to the airport and the oil refineries has a WILDLIFE preserve.  I was just as shocked as you are.  It was literally next to I-95 and the airport, so the sounds of nature were often overshadowed by airplanes and trucks... but the scenery was beautiful.  We saw some deer:
And Annie made friends with a few turtles:
And overall it was a nice day to enjoy some sun and work off the millions of calories I've consumed over the birthday celebration!

I think our next hiking destination will include a more diverse terrain as it was a flat trail that wound around the same marsh and pond areas.  But I would have never known that was there, and I'm glad we got to check it out!  

 "And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."  -Kahlil Gibran

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Game on!

Thursday marked the beginning of the last year in my 20's!  I was blessed to have the day off from school and spend the day relaxing, getting a pedicure and a surprise visit from friends!  I registered for a 5 mile race at the end of July, working on goal #5.  Anyone want to join?  It's a really flat course in Chestnut Hill, PA.  The race goes through part of Fairmount Park along the Wissahickon so it is picturesque.  Best of all, it supports an amazing organization that I am passionate about.  MCAP, or Montgomery County Child Advocate Project, is a volunteer-based organization of lawyers who work as advocates and supporters of children who are going through the legal process due to child abuse and/or neglect.  MCAP is dear to my heart not only because the woman who runs it is a parent of former students, but also because I was a social worker for a year when I first graduated college and I worked with kids who were abused and neglected.  In addition to providing in-home services and connecting families to community resources (counseling, food banks, medical clinics, rec centers, etc.), I would accompany them through the court system if the children were at risk of being removed from their parents.  Watching children go through this process with parents who sometimes were unable (or chose not) to fulfill their role of parents, I saw how vulnerable the children were.  This is where the MCAP comes in, as well as social workers.  They look out for the kids best interest but also provide emotional support and empowerment.  If you're interested, let me know!
For the rest of my birthday, I made a bit of a mistake and offered to babysit at night, kind of overlooking the whole birthday thing.  It ended up being a low key night with the kids, as it was over 100 degrees and we had some crazy storms.  I made it home by 10 to spend a little time celebrating with Ryan.  Fortunately we have a weekend of fun planned so I know missing the official night of my birthday is not a big deal at all!
Yesterday was my last day of school for the year.  It is always a bittersweet time, as I am overjoyed to have some time off to recharge batteries and make some extra money, but at the same time I will miss seeing everyone I at school and the consistency of a routine.  Alas I marked the end with a fun celebration last night with some good friends and good beers and good food!  I think my favorite part was watching people from different parts of my life connect and have a great time together.  Even though people may have never met before or they met once or twice, it is really cool to see how well they get along and share the same sense of humor and just general way of relating.
I was so proud of myself that I brought my camera to work on goal #14, only to realize the battery was dead as soon I got there.  Hopefully some of the pictures from other people throughout the night will make their way to the blog someday soon! 
So, here is the list of my last 10 goals for the year....  And it's on!
Goal #21: Watch the sun rise
Although I have pulled my share of all-nighters, I've never watched the sun rise from a picturesque location.  The pictures I've seen, watching the sun crest over the horizon, are absolutely breathtaking.  Seeing it in person and witnessing the natural beauty is another way of being more intentional for me, and appreciating things that I often take for granted or overlook.
Goal #22: Make plans and stick to them
Life gets busy, and there are always reasons why I can't do something (whether it's something else came up, money, exhaustion, etc.) but I think that sometimes I let these reasons or just the general business of life get in the way of connecting with people whom I love and miss.  I have friends living all over the country who I'd really like to visit or at least be in touch with regularly, and I also have friends all over the city or even my neighborhood who I'd love to spend more time with.  Hope to remedy this situation!
Goal #23:  Listen
Now, I mean really listen.  Sometimes I might hear what I 'want' to hear, or what I think someone is saying without necessarily hearing what they are actually saying.  I also hope to listen more to myself, to the movements and emotions I experience.. to understand how God is working in those moments and feelings.  This definitely requires a bit of patience, and it is a lifelong learning process.
Goal #24: Play
One of my favorite pastimes when I am with my family is playing cards and other games.  Ryan and I sometimes play rummy and our new favorite 'bananagrams' on our back deck.  Playing games is a great way to decompress, laugh, get a little competitive and have a fun night without costing anything!  I have a basket full of games, Apples to Apples, Taboo, Trivia Pursuit, etc.  Just need to get some willing participants!
Goal #25: Buy local
Ryan and I have decided to continue our CSA share this year for vegetables, and it is a great way to support local farmers and eat organic.  But this is really the only 'local' effort we make consistently.  One of my colleagues has started to make me paranoid about eating any food products that originate in China (didn't realize my garlic was coming from there... who knows what is in their soil!) so I am motivated to avoid eating risky products but also want to support the local economy as much as possible.  In the wake of the economic crisis, I am continually troubled by how many Americans are unemployed and underemployed, and how many corporations continue to outsource and take jobs elsewhere.  Enough of my soapbox for now, but I hope to support more local establishments instead of automatically going to Kohl's or other chains and instead check out the mom and pop shops.
Goal #26: Retreat
It has been several years since I have been on a retreat, and the idea of even spending a day at Wernersville retreat house brings me great joy.  Retreats have always been a significant part of my life as they provide an opportunity to take some time away from life to reflect, listen and connect.  As a teacher, I've been blessed to continue to be a part of the retreat program at our school and accompany our seniors on their overnight retreats.  However, the experience as a retreat leader is much different than a participant.  Hopefully I can find an opportunity to retreat in the coming year!
Goal #27: Save
Although times are tight and we are constantly making decisions about our finances and needs, intentionally saving even a small amount each week can have a great impact over time.  All it takes is being intentional (and setting up automatic withdrawal from our checking account... and not canceling it)!
Goal #28: Take risks and think outside the box
There have been many times over the last few years where I've had an idea or an opportunity set before me that I have avoided or declined because I was afraid of the risks associated with it.  This takes place in professional endeavors, personal relationships and future goals.  Though it is important to be honest about the risk factor whenever I'm making a decision, I don't want my fears to prevent me from growing and being challenged.
Goal #29: Eat breakfast in bed... once a month
I love our bed.  When Ryan and I moved last year, we invested in a beautiful sleigh bed that is big enough to fit both of us and Annie comfortably.  I always look forward to the end of the night when we can go 'get snuggly'.  But why reserve this great area for sleeping only?  The idea of cooking (or being cooked for) and then eating in bed is delightful!  I have to be honest, Ryan does occasionally bring my breakfast in bed- but I don't think I've ever reciprocated it.
Goal #30: Be patient (with life, myself & everyone else!)
Making this list of goals for the next year excites and challenges me.  But my mind is already racing, trying to accomplish all 30 things in the next month.  The reason I wanted to start this project and blog is to live more intentionally and embrace life more fully.  It isn't because I have a to-do list that must be accomplished.  So being patient has to be the backbone of this entire year... to live in the moment and savor all that life has to offer!

I'll end with a great quote that's been shared at school quite a bit frequently.  It is originally from St. Catherine of Siena but was recently a part of the sermon at Will and Kate's royal wedding (and no, I didn't get up and watch it!).   
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Totally called out!

So after sending out emails and FB messages about the inaugural blog last night, I got a hilarious and deeply meaningful email from a close high school/grad school friend.  Several weeks ago, she was in Philly for work and got to spend some time with Ryan and I.  During one of our many chats, I shared my annoyance with FB and blogging in general... and as such she pointed out the irony that I've now jumped on the band wagon of blogging!  Let's hope I don't become an annoying blogger.  (too late?!)
As my friend pointed out, blogging is a great way to get "a little window into your life - it helps me feel connected to you in a more tangible way."  She is one of many amazing people who I am blessed to share this journey of life with, but who unfortunately I don't get to see or connect with on a regular basis.  We often talk about our mutual hopes for the future, to return to MA and have our kids grow up together.  But for now, we are in different cities and seem to be living parallel lives in many ways (though we often don't even realize it).  I hope this blog is a way to connect with people like Vicki, those who have shared such pivotal experiences and parts of their life with me.  It really is the companions on the journey that make it so much more worthwhile and meaningful. 
Today at work we took the first step in our new process of accreditation by gathering to learn about the approach.  The dawn of appreciative inquiry!  The philosophy behind 'appreciative inquiry' looks at the way systems work best and what it is that exactly gives the system life... basically focusing on what works.  This is definitely an optimistic and positive approach, in contrast to diagnosing the 'problems' or what isn't really working in the system.  Though the approach is used in applied psychology and organizational development, my initial reaction is that this approach is more significantly a way of life.  It's a little new age-y, and we need to be careful not to skirt the problems (or room for growth) by focusing so much on the positive.  BUT, I am going to give it a try and be open to the possibilities.  Which leads me to introduce several more of my 30 before 30 goals:
Goal #11: Focus on the positive 
Whether it's the person who flipped me off because I didn't stop to let him cross the street on my way home (true story, but I thought he was still taking pictures of the creek below...) or the adorable dog and cat team who woke me up at 4:45am yesterday to go to the bathroom and have breakfast (another true story), it's easy to fixate on the negative, frustrating and/or annoying elements of my day.  When looking at bigger picture situations, like relationships with extended family or professional relationships, it's often a downfall of mine to hold on to or emphasize the negative and overlook all the amazing positive and life-giving elements.  Sometimes it easiest to fixate on negativity because it seems like that's what everyone else is doing.  I can easily get fired up listening to someone else's frustrations, and I also feel a sense of validation or relief to hear someone else share my grievances or affirm my complaints.  But where does it leave me?  More annoyed?  Pessimistic?  Uninspired to do anything to fix (whatever it is)?  Ready to take my frustrations out on people uninvolved?  Probably all of the above.  I don't know if the next time Annie and Bubba wake me up before 5am I will look at them and say, 'Gee, I am so blessed to have such beautiful pets'.  But, I might not spend the time it takes me to get downstairs, feed and walk them, being annoyed that it was my turn to get up early with the pets and not my loving husband's turn...  :)  This is a Helen Keller quote from the people at Case Western who've developed appreciative inquiry, and I think she really gets it:  "To keep our faces toward change, and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate, is strength undefeatable."
Goal #12: Volunteer consistently
Over the last year, I got involved with an organization that collaborates with the national suicide hotline.  We answer 'crisis' calls on a local line in addition to taking local calls to the national suicide hotline.  Most of the calls are folks who are lonely, mentally ill and/or looking for an empathetic ear.  I've been sporadic in my commitment after I had a disturbing brush with a 'sex caller' (story for another day), but now I've re-committed myself and see the value in being the voice at the other end of the phone.  I hope to maintain my involvement, and continue to educate my students about the resources available to them and anyone else struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts.  My family has been touched (as most families have) with mental illness struggles and suicide.  This amazing organization gives me hope.  (1-800-273-TALK)
Goal #13:  Read a newspaper 
Even if it's digital, I'd like to be more aware of what is going on in the world.  Watching the national news every evening isn't always an option given my schedule... and it often doesn't cover everything going on (at all, or inaccurately).  Keeping as my homepage does keep me up to date on the news and politics in this great city, but (gasp) the world exists outside of Philadelphia! 
Goal #14: Take more photographs
I used to be camera obsessed, and in the last year or two, I forget to bring my camera and regret not capturing some memorable moments.  Growing up, we always groaned when my aunt took out the camera and had us take 30 posed pictures at the holiday dinner table.  I might not need 30 copies of the same pic, but I do miss having the tangible memories.
Goal #15: Scrapbook
I've made a few scrapbooks in my day, and I just love it.  It's something that takes time, but I love letting my creative juices flow.  It also gives me a place to store those photographs and memories in a way that can be cherished and shared for years to come. 
Goal #16:  Get involved with/start a book club
This is something I've wanted to do for a couple of years now.  I went so far as to join a couple of book club groups on but never got the courage to show up at one of the gatherings.  One of my colleagues is in a book club with friends and former colleagues.  She admits that often she hasn't read/finished the book but it's a great excuse to get together with a great group of people once a month!  So maybe this will be through or maybe I'll try to corral some friends to start one of our own!
Goal #17: Be more neighborly
Ryan and I have met some great people in our Manayunk neighborhood with whom we enjoy the random BBQ or chat on the street.  Chances are, we will move out of the city this summer and discover a new neighborhood.  I plan to be really intentional about getting to know our new neighbors and building a sense of community.   Perhaps some of that healthy baking will be my vehicle for community building (it's worked so far)!
Goal #18: Tour wineries and breweries
Now there's an obvious motivation here of drinking good beer and wine.  Beyond that though, it seems like I always meet some of the most interesting people at tastings and beer fests.  Maybe it's because naturally, I am a talker... and give me a few drinks and I will literally talk to a wall.  But it's also a great way to meet interesting people and explore different areas within driving distance of Philly.
Goal #19: Put my laundry away
Ryan is a very patient man, who fortunately doesn't (seem) to get really annoyed by this, but it is starting to even annoy me!  I am pretty consistent about doing our laundry and even bringing it into the bedroom, but then Ryan's stuff will magically get put away (by him) immediately, and mine will sit in the laundry basket for a week, maybe two or three.  I dig through to get something I know is in there, but otherwise it just sits there, getting wrinkled.  This also involves stuff that I might try on, but decide not to wear, which then gets tossed into/on top of the overflowing laundry basket.  I think part of this is about simplifying as well- because in reality, most of the clothes in my closet are things I never wear. 
Goal #20: Just Dance
Although I resented my parents for making me take a ballroom dancing class, the thought of taking a dance class as an adult is very intriguing.  I love the idea of learning to dance with Ryan, but I'd also love to try Zumba or some other type of solo dance.  Probably the main reason I hated dancing in middle school was due to the fact that I was/still am incredibly awkward and have a less than desirable rhythm and coordination.  That being said, my best bud at work has choreographed for me before- and I performed the Napoleon Dynamite dance at a school-wide assembly a few years back (but she had to stand backstage counting off my steps)!  So, it's possible.  Just gotta get out of my comfort zone and find a patient teacher. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. -Ferris Bueller

In addition to being one of my all-time favorite movies, Ferris Bueller had a lot of insight for a high school student!  As I anticipate turning 29 and beginning the last year of my 20's, it feels like time is passing by quicker each year.  Additionally, I find myself in an 'in-between' of sorts, settled in some aspects of my life and yet anticipating and waiting for other parts of my life to fall into place the way Ryan and I want.  Living in this space makes me sometimes overlook the time and opportunities in front of me because I am too focused on the future and what I hope the future will hold.  As a result, I've decided to undertake this blogging adventure... to live with intention and embrace each moment.  Although there are some things about the future that I can't control, there are many things I can.  So I hope to use this year to take control in my life, and embrace the things that give me great joy and meaning instead of spending time wishing I had something else (insert any of the following here: financial independence, a set career path, a house, etc).
The motivation for the blog comes out of a few different experiences over the last several months.  First and foremost, I've joined an amazing faith sharing group with several other women in totally diverse life situations... and yet we are all experiencing the pangs of transition, 'growing up' and trying to figure out what life is all about.  Our gatherings provide an arena to share and learn from each other, and also to find comfort in knowing I'm not (or Ryan and I aren't) the only one(s) coping with transition and trying to find fulfillment and meaning in the midst of it all... and realizing we don't have complete control!  Journeying with these women has also empowered me to not only name how I'm feeling but more importantly being proactive and looking at life through a new lens.  Another motivation for the blog comes from a recent conversation with friends from college I've recently re-connected with who are bloggers and were discussing the concept of '30 before 30' blogs... I loved the idea and decided to make it my own as well.  Hopefully this blog will help to be an opportunity to learn and grow for myself and the readers (if anyone is out there)?!
I suppose I will wrap up this inaugural post with a sneak preview of a few items on my 'list' of thirty... the rest will be in place by Thursday, the official start of my last year as a 20-something!
Goal #1:  Blog
Okay, maybe that's a cop-out for the first goal... but I think that keeping this blog will be a good way for me to stay accountable to my goals.  Also, I am able to get my thoughts organized through writing, and I like the idea of sharing my thoughts with people and learning from each other rather than keeping a private journal.  (though the blog is semi-private) 

Goal #2:  Camp... a bunch
Starting this summer, Ryan, Annie and I will load up the car and head to New England for our first of (hopefully) many camping trips this year.  We already have another tentative camping date with friends Chris and Liz in the fall, and I plan to coordinate several more camping excursions!  I mean, really, what's not to love:  s'mores, hiking, campfires, all the glory of nature, inexpensive means of travel and accommodations, the list goes on!  Anyone interested, let me know!
Goal #3:  Learn to bake healthily
I love love love to bake, but my waist line resents this passion.  I realize there are ways to healthily do this (though the only time I've used something like applesauce instead of oil in a recipe was because I was out of oil), but I've never delved into the possibilities.  Instead, I've stopped baking.  But, that doesn't work because I really miss baking (and so do my neighbors) so I'd like to educate myself and experiment in the world of healthy baking.
Goal #4:  Explore water sports in the Delaware Valley
One of my greatest frustrations about living in the Philadelphia area (and not in Massachusetts...) is that I miss the ocean and all that it has to offer.  I find being near the water to be very calming, and have many memories of driving myself to the harbor while in high school to relax, contemplate or just be.  I also love the water for the adventures it offers, be it swimming, sailing, canoeing or kayaking.  The idea of swimming in the Schuylkill River frightens me, but there are many ponds, lakes and creeks that I've never explored in the Delaware Valley.  It's still not the ocean, but I think it'll do for now!
Goal #5: Run 
Running has become trendy (even in Philadelphia, dubbed the fattest city in 2000), and last year I got my rear in gear to run the infamous Broad Street Run.  A ten-mile race that runs from North Philadelphia through Center City into South Philadelphia and draws 30,000 runners, BSR taught me that I am capable of reaching my goals if I actually set them, and as long as I commit myself to the steps necessary to obtain the goals (a rigorous training program) nothing will prevent me from accomplishing what I set out to do.  I'd never run more than 2 miles at a time, and within a couple of months I was able to do 10.  Since then, I've only run a 5k mud run... which was awesome, and hilariously how Ryan and I spent our first anniversary- with my brother too!  This year, I'd like to do the mud run again, 10K this time around, and ideally a half marathon (13.1 miles) will be on the docket.
Goal #6: Facebook in moderation

This has been on my to-do list of the last few months, and I hope to continue my commitment to use Facebook in a good way.  It's the ultimate time-suck (did I really just spend 30 minutes looking at 200 pictures from a professional photo shoot of my friends baby?!?) and makes me feel like I am connected with 700 people who I haven't talked to in 15 (or more) years and probably never will talk to again, even if I lived near them.  At the same time, I love FB in that it enables me to be in touch with friends and family that I don't see or talk to every day but like to know what's going on in their lives.  There's gotta be a balance, so hopefully I can find it!
Goal #7: Send (more) cards in the mail
I love getting and sending mail, but it seems like most often my mail contains bills and credit card offers, with an occasional envelope from my dad (with a much appreciated Kohl's gift card!) or a magazine.  I used to send cards and notes like it was my job, but it's been years and years since I've done it.  I can't say it's the cost (I have a huge box full of cards) but I think it's that I just don't think of it.  If I am thinking of someone, I can email, call, text, or send a FB message.  But the feeling of logging onto FB and seeing you have an inbox message is just not the same as gathering your mail and seeing your hand-written address with a familiar friend or family member's address in the return spot.  In addition, I have some great friends and family who don't live nearby anymore, and I am just not the best at keeping in touch with people.  It's time to change that.
Goal #8: Simplify
Ryan and I moved into a larger, 2 bedroom house last year.  I was so excited to have the extra space from our shoe box apartment that we spent our first year of marriage in, but now I realize that I've filled the space with stuff I don't use (or store stuff I've been carrying with me for 10 years that I haven't used since college).  I hope to be intentional about my 'stuff' and streamline my life so that I only have 'stuff' that I need and use... the space fillers need to go (and stay 'gone')!
Goal #9: Network
I joined LinkedIn a few years ago and have never finished my profile.  In addition, I have loads of former classmates and colleagues doing fascinating work in various settings and locations.  I have been blessed to be at my job as a high school teacher for six years now.  I am not looking to network to find a new job necessarily, but perhaps to be inspired and learn ways to enrich my job and school community.  People are doing such amazing things in their ministry and professions, so I'd like to tap into that creative, passionate energy!  Share the love, please!
Goal #10: Read more (turn off the TV)
I've fallen into the bad habit of getting into bed and turning on the TV...  Ryan will be reading or doing a crossword puzzle, and I am trying to get in one last episode of Law and Order (SVU) or anything Food Network.  Though I think watching TV is an okay way to veg out, I also love to read.  I use the excuse that during school, I am constantly reading papers and articles, etc. and so I don't want to read when I'm done at work.  I think it's time to challenge that statement, primarily because I really love getting lost in a book.... I think it's laziness or something.  The summer is a good time to get the momentum going and ignite my passion for reading!  So far, I can't put down James Martin's My Life with the Saints