Monday, November 10, 2014

Musical Mondays

I'm trying to get better about posting. I'm a fan of alliterations, so Musical Mondays it is!

Music has been a critical component of my life. I grew up with great artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel on repeat in my house. I've been dancing since I was three, my brother is a phenomenal musician and my sister is a jack (jill?) of all trades when it comes to performing, singing and dancing. I like to sing (key point: like to sing, not necessarily good at singing) and I love all types of music.

Today's feature is a song that has been on repeat all day yesterday and today. I love its simplicity, just vocals and guitar, and I LOVE the video concept. The lyrics are beautiful and feel old-timey romantic, so I think the video is a good fit. Plus, the choreography is amazing!

Ed Sheran-Thinking Out Loud

Thursday, November 6, 2014

November Rains

It is officially fall and winter is coming on fast. I mean, I was driving home at 4:30 p.m. today and it was already getting dark. Granted, the sun hadn't come out the entire day due to a miserable rain cloud hanging over Center City, but still. Very dark. Very early.

It seems completely impossible that it is already November. The last time I was writing on here it was May, I was about to graduate from ACESJU and embark on an entirely new journey. Now here I am, after a summer of traveling Spain, moving into a new house in a new part of the city, almost 3 months into my new job. In the words of Chris Traeger (Parks and Rec) I literally can't believe how time has flown. Alright, let's back track a little bit and take a look at these past few months....

June brought the end of my two years of teaching, the end of ACE, graduation from St. Joseph's University with a M.S. in Education, and moving out of our crazy giant house for the summer.
ACESJU Graduation
Cohort 2 Traditional Olive Garden Dinner
Last Day in my classroom

Summer in North Carolina was slow and relaxing, as any southern summer should be. There were long walks around the neighborhood, trips to the Outer Banks (and quick trips back from OBX to avoid impending hurricanes), and Fourth of July celebrations with friends in the greatest college town there is.
Cape Hatteras National Lighthouse
Jordan Lake Days
Sugarland Cupcakes on Franklin Street

July brought THE TRIP. The one we had been planning and training for, El Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James). There will be plenty of pictures and stories to come of our 20+ day trip across Northern Spain (135 miles hiked baby!), but for now I'll leave you with our joyous celebration upon our arrival to Santiago de Compostella!
Jumping for Joy upon arrival in Santiago!

August was moving to a new house, starting a new job, and getting accustomed to a new life style. The 9-5 working life (more like 8-4:30 most days) started off slowly, just being in the office and doing a lot of readings and trainings, but we are now in full swing. I work on two different research projects, both focused on mental health issues in urban public schools. One study is looking at the feasibility of running intervention groups for children with anxiety and disruptive behavior disorders in one section of the city, while the other program focused on preventing relational aggression and bullying, specifically though a 20 session classroom based intervention. I am in schools almost every day during the week, and driving all around the city to different places gets exhausting, but it is amazing. I am working with some of the most talented and dedicated experts in their field, as well as gradate students,interns fellows and research assistants with many different backgrounds and experiences. I feel like I am learning more and more everyday, and it is weird to think that I am getting paid to learn so much about subjects that I love, to work with kids in schools, and to on some days, walk around the city dressed like middle schoolers to film bullying intervention videos. It hasn't even been 3 months at this job, but so far its been awesome. Have I mentioned how cool my coworkers are?

Finally, being a young 20 something living in a big city is starting to grow on me. Everything is so accessible, and we have been taking advantage of groupons, restaurant week deals and all sorts of fall festivities, both in the city and with friends back at home. 
Roomie Restaurant Week
Fall pumpkin picking
White House Reunion
Silly girlies 
Maple View Farms

Oh hello world, I'm ready for ya.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Two Weeks

Two Weeks. Two weeks left out of this two year commitment to ACESJU are left.

Two weeks.

Two weeks left in the classroom. Two weeks left as a teacher, a mentor, a guide to my students.

Two weeks.

Two weeks left in community, living with 10 roommates, sharing one kitchen, always having people around.

Two weeks.

Two weeks seems so short and so long at the same exact time. 14 days will fly by, but the amount of work that needs to get done in those 14 days is astronomical. I need to wrap up loose ends, pack up both by room and my classroom, submit all final grades and paperwork, celebrate with ACE and graduate. That's a lot in two weeks.

There will be plenty of time for reflection later, but as scared as I am for the ending of these two weeks, I am incredibly excited for the future.

This summer, I'm taking my talents to N.C. for most of June to relax and reconnect. Chapel Hill/Triangle area friends, I'll be coming your way for sure!

Then comes July. After fourth of July I am embarking on what is sure to be an unforgettable trip to Spain with three of my current roommates to hike El Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James. We are hiking only a small part of the 500 mile pilgrimage, but I can't wait! Two days in Pamplona for the running of the bulls (unintentionally planned), 12ish days of walking, and then 4-5 days in Barcelona rounds up the month of July.

Then August. A week or two in Charlotte, then moving back to Philly into a location TBD, and start of the new job which I am simultaneously ecstatic and terrified for. Due to great timing, great connections, God's grace and some sheer luck, I landed a Research Assistant position at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, in the Psychology department. I'll be helping out on two projects, one focused on Bullying Interventions in Urban Schools and the other on Mental/Behavioral Health services in Urban schools. Finally, the 6 years of post-secondary education are all culminating together! I am so excited, though I am not 100% sure of what I'll be doing day by day, or how long I'll be there. But I think its a gateway to the career I would like to have one day.

So there it is. Even after telling myself I wouldn't, I am staying in Philadelphia for the time being. A new job, new adventures, and a new side of the city awaits.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day Memories

It's hard to believe that two years ago today, Ari and I were sitting on the banks of the San Fransisco Bay, freezing our tails off watching the fireworks for Memorial Day igniting behind the shimmering Golden Gate Bridge. Two weeks prior, we had become college graduates, packed up our house for the past two years and hopped in the car to drive across the country. Two years later, and I am again getting ready to pack up my house for the past two years, graduate and travel across land and sea. It's hard to believe that the na├»ve college graduate who embarked into the world two years ago, filled with excitement about being a "real person" is the same person who sits here typing. To the untrained eye, I am the same driven, obnoxiously happy and goofy, super organized person I was in college, the girl who  double majored, studied abroad, lived in Newman, inhaled Alpine begels and lived to bake cupcakes and laugh withe here friends. In many ways I still am the same person, but I discover more and more that not only have I changed, but so have all the people I left when I left for Philadelphia. I tried to the best of my ability to give my past two years of my life to God in service. How much I succeeded, I don't know how to measures or even if it's hold be something that I should try to measure. Friends have gotten married, moved across the country, settled down, refused to settle, started careers, changed jobs  and paths and become more into the people that God intended them to be over the past two years, and  it has been amazing to watch and sometimes participate in. Some have settled into some sort of normal pattern, though normal for the talented and selfless group of men and women I am blessed to call my friends can be a broad definition. Some are still searching.

 And I feel somewhere stuck in between.

I have trouble separating the everyday life from the tangible future. School ends in three weeks and pretty much a new life starts, but my day still feels like wake up, get Wawa, drive, teach,discipline, teach, laugh, teach, stared confused at their jokes, teach, eat, teach, pack up, go home, grade,sit in the dining room, netflix, dinner, laugh in the kitchen, shower, bed, repeat. Though the specific details of who I discipline that day or who I am laughing with in the kitchen may change from day to day, it is a pattern I am used to. The pattern will be broken soon, it will be open for change and alteration, and for the first time I don't have a template. For college, there was an outline, a skeleton or framework within which I lived for four years. After I accepts ACE, there was another framework to fit my life into for the next two years. Not that it wasn't challenging but there was a sense of control over working within a set frame. Come June 12, there is no pre-made frame. Do a need to build a new frame? Does this frame have a time limit? Does it have a location limit? Do I even need to build a frame within which to fit, or do I leave my picture with room to expand in all directions? Do I even need to be able to see the frame? 

God has been the master builder, setting the frames loosely, only I could see the framework for the past 24 years of my life. No, I couldn't see every twist and bend that it would take, but I had an outline. School has been the outline. With no set frame visible in the future, I come to realize that my faith needs to grow in order to move forward and work without seeing the frameworks' boundaries. I know I need to accept that only so much is within my control, but also that only so much can be seen when I look out on the horizon. We only see what is beyond the horizon when we travel closer to it, and explore the land in between us and the horizon. There is no skipping to beyond the horizon without first traveling the land between. It is up to us how spend the time between us and the horizon, whether we drudge through, live fearfully wailing a very fine line, or if we open ourselves up to experiencing all the journey has to offer.

There are some frameworks set motion. Come June 12  I will return to NC for some time for some vacation time, before fulfilling my ever growing wanderlust and venturing to Spain to hike a portion of El Camino del Santiago with three incredible women I got to call my roommates for the past two years. Two days in Pamplona (unintentionally during the running of the bulls, so that will be interesting), 12 days hiking/busing from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela, and then 4-5 days in Barcelona. It is a religious pilgrimage, and while I go with the hopes of deepening my relationships with God, I am not sure what I am looking for, and would appreciate prayers for the journey. More Camino details to come soon!

After returning to the states, I return to Philadelphia to begin a clinical research assistant position at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, one which I have been incredibly blessed to have come into contact with right after ACESJU. A job awaits, but all the details of life that will surround this new job are hazy, and where this position may lead is unclear. I know where I would like it to lead, but as I've seen in the past two years, so much can change. So much can be altered in the course of days, weeks, months that I don't know where the frame may bend and twist as the future progresses. But as I was able to witness over the events of Memorial Day and the beautiful union of two holy individuals, "the one who calls you is faithful" and will guide and protect and love through all our lives.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

25 before turning 25

My 24th birthday was Sunday. 24 isn't really a "monumental" age in any special ways, it just marks a fresh start, and chance to rethink priorities and goals, and start the "year" on a good note.

But it also marks the year leading up to 25. 

25 means I'm no longer a young 20-something. I'm mid-20's, 3 years out of college, supposedly living in the real world. It doesn't really scare me that I'm turning older, even though I always tell my students that I am "so old" (side note…a first grader asked me  if I was turning 50 when I told her it was my birthday….oh children, they have no concept of age in adults). I don't have any finite age goals to be married/have children/have a house by a certain age, mostly because I know I can't really control that arena. While sometimes I wish I was still that young 20 something, still in college, with free time, no need to wear dress pants everyday, there are also perks and freedoms that come with growing older and having more opportunities. I relish having another new year with BIG opportunities coming my way, from graduating the service program I am in, becoming a fully licensed teacher with a Master's, to getting an "actual" (real paying) job, and moving on to new opportunities. So I made a 25 before 25 years old list, a set of goals that I would like to work towards before the 25th birthday roles around. Now, some of them are sort of vague, like 'manage my money better', and as I figure out more specific strategies, I will refine my list. But for now, here is my 25 in 25 list.

1. Obtain my PA teaching license (Complete summer 2014)
2. Graduate from my Master's program with Honors (May 2014)
3. Accept a real person job! (Wahoo! Accepted April 2014)
4. Become more responsible with my finances (sorta?)
5. Invest my money (with banker Dad's help)
6. Travel to at least 2 new cities (Soon to come this summer!)
7. Take a new dance class (does a new zumba class count?)
8. Read 12 new books, no repeats (Book one is The Book Theif)
9. Apply (and possible get into) a Ph.D. program (this is postponed to next year)
10. See a new Broadway show
11. Visit the Jersey shore at least once this summer
12. Take a SCUBA trip
13. Finally get contacts
14. Decorate my first real apartment! probably with IKEA furniture…. (or furniture from my aunt, check!)
15. Invest in a classic handbag (Kate Spade...check done)
16. Make an ACE photo book
17. Send 4 letters to friends a week
18. Take a road trip to visit a friend
19. send a card to all my friends and family on their birthday (getting better at this)
20. Complete a 50 day Novena
21. Go to confession at least twice (something I am not very good at)
22. Take the baby sister on a trip for her 18th  birthday
23. Plan a reunion event for UNC homecoming (not homecoming, but reunion complete!)
24. Have a White House Reunion Weekend (see above)
25. Write on my blog once a week! (we are getting there!!!)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Let it go….and Let God

Let it go…. Oscar winning Best Original Song or Mantra for my current state of life?

I pick both.

Frozen came out on DVD today, and you bet that disk was pre-ordered on Amazon 2 months ago and was waiting at my front door when I go home today.

And thank goodness it was.

Too many things were moved beyond my control today, too many things felt frustrating and unfixable, too many bad habits were reverted back to when I couldn't see a clear way out. I was frustrated, angry and yelled at all the cars around me when I was driving home (I mean, they couldn't hear me, so my rage was directed towards them…..not that it makes it any better).

I got home and sat on my bed, and just kept praying to let today go, and let tomorrow be a better day.

To Let it go, and Let God take control.

After all, its not always up to us anyhow. How other people act, especially middle schoolers, is out of my control, and all I can do is react to the situation and work with what I've got. Some days it seems impossible to just let it go and move on, but then we gave to remember that we are so loved by an all powerful and ever-giving God, and that even when we fell like the world is letting us down, He is constantly there.

I sometimes feel like I am "Standing, Frozen, in the life I've chosen", and that I need to break out and become a different version of myself, and I have to know that I have a God who is guiding me on an incredible path to serve Him, and that if I truly follow Him, I won't be stuck in a life without meaning, and life that I want to let go of. Yes, it may be a difficult journey, but it will be fulfilling and a life worth living for God's greater glory.

I need to "let it go" and let God in, to show me a path, help me see the best of a situation, and lead me to what really matters. If I redirect my frustration into love for those who need it most, including friends and family, I'm leading myself closer to God's path.

And after all, some people are worth melting for :D

Friday, January 24, 2014

Anything is possible on a snow day….

As a southern-bred girl, snow has always seemed magical. It was pure, innocence; it hid away any blemish on the surface and present a pristine, white surface for the world to work with. There is that moment in the morning after the snow has began to lay, where the world is still, nothing moves and peace floats across the surface. Ahh, it was so magical, especially for the one snow day we got each year, when school was closed due to the blizzard of 4, count ‘em, 4 INCHES of snow that fell. Those were the days…..

 Well, I moved to Philadelphia and needless to say, the Polar Vortex has not been my friend this year. The one snow day in December was magical. The three snow days so far in January, sub-zero temperatures, heating problems and the foot plus of snow on the ground are getting irritating. The snow looks magical when it falls. The extra sleep is wonderful. So much hot chocolate and cookies was consumed. However, the reality part of life is mixing with the snow day. I wanted to get into my car because I needed groceries. I was annoyed that I didn't have school because now my lesson plans were off, and I have so much to teach my students about Russia, sports statistics and forces and motion before the Opening Ceremonies on February 7th! #sochi2014 (SO EXCITED). Snow days are fantastic to rest, rejuvenate and remember what it was like being a kid, but I think it is a sign of growing up that I crave being back in the real world after being locked away for a bit, and that what I am doing with my life right now is fulfilling. 

So anything is possible on a snow day. It still has the magical powers from childhood, the result of the magic is just a little different now a days. It reveals to us more about ourselves as a white blanket of snow strips the earth down to its purest existence. 


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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Gotta be something more….

" There's gotta be something more, gotta be more than this"…and well, that's about as far as that song goes with the theme of this post. The next line is "I need a little less hard time, I need a little more bliss…" and while that would be a welcome addition to a busy life, that's not really the point.

There has to be more than just merely existing on the planet for your own benefit.

I've quoted him before, but I think Woodrow Wilson quote perfectly summarized how I feel: 

"You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget that errand." 

I keep thinking about finding an easier profession, or one were I wouldn't feel so tired or stressed or feel helpless with the impending doom of the education system/poverty level/general suckiness of the world sometimes (#pessamisticwinterblues). But then I have to step back and ask myself why I am doing this. Why do I think what I am doing has value, has a purpose for the world. 

I was complaining to a friend, a fellow teacher, joking about when I decided to "sell my soul to this profession". The response I got wasn't a humorous agreement but a humbling reality check. 

The response was "when I realized that I wanted to change lives."

Well THAT sure as qualifies as something more. 

it is hard to see the affect of my actions from inside the trenches, when I am tired, when I have a mountain of papers to grade, when the kids won't stop talking and when I read article after article about negative things going on in education. It's hard to see the effect when I want to buy a plane ticket to go home, or wish I could afford to buy the purse I really wanted or faster internet connection to use to watch Netflix. 

It's hard to see the effect when I am constantly thinking about me, not about them and certainly not about Him.

Jesus calls us to serve. He call us to care for "the least of these" for, "Amen, I say to you, whatever you do for the least brothers of mine, you did for me" Matthew 25:40. We are not called to be comfortable, to fill the selfish desires of the flesh and mind, to serve only our own need in the world. We are called to help protect and serve the least of His Kingdom, to work on bringing others to Christ, to try and bring other saints with us as we work towards Heaven. 

That is the something more that we crave, that I have been craving. The realization that there is a greater need to be served, a greater purpose to the life I am leading. I need to rejoice in what I have been given, in the opportunity to serve in the way I have been called in this moment, and try to channel the words of another song, of Audrey Assad's "Sparrow" when she joyfully acclaims "I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free, His eye is on the sparrow, and I know, He's watching me" Rejoice, for this is the day the Lord has made.