Category Archives: holidays

30 Years of Memories

I turned 30 on Friday.  I don’t know if it’s really hit me yet.  30.  Like 3-0.  Like I am no longer in my twenties.  I’m an actual adult, and although this has been the case for over ten years, it still doesn’t feel as though that is the case.

When I turned 28, I wrote a blog called “28 Things I’ve Learned in 28 Years” and they are still true today, so rather than writing about my 30 years of wisdom, I wanted to write out 30 years of memories.  Now, I don’t have memories from when I was a baby or toddler, so rather than writing something for each year, I am going to write about 30 memories that stand out in my mind.

1. Long Beach Island vacations with my mom

7856_699041469580_1359668740_nEvery year since I can remember, we spent time in LBI.  After she was divorced, we spent time at LBI at the house my grandparents rented, but as soon as she was able to, we started going to LBI for yearly vacations, usually around my birthday.

2. Growing up in Candlewood Shores

I loved growing up so close to the lake.  I spent tons of time at the beach, swimming in the lake, kayaking, and walking my dog around the neighborhood.  During the winter, I would go sledding in my yard or on the hill at the end of my dead-end road.

3. Frost Valley adventures with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins

1928832_505726713900_6999_nAlso every year since I remember, I have been going to Frost Valley with some of my family members for a long weekend in January.  I have so many memories of the great times I’ve had at Frost Valley.  Tubing, cross country skiing, hiking, using the low ropes course, the cable bridges, exploring, building snowmen, hiking to the observatory.

4. Myrtle Beach vacations

I went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina three times with my aunt, uncle, and two cousins.  Going to the beach, boogie boarding, swimming in the pool, hunting for hermit crabs in the gullies at night, getting ice cream, playing mini-golf.

5. Family parties

I was always excited to attend frequent family parties.  My favorite were those that took place in the summer at the marina where my grandparents kept their boat.  We would swim, barbecue, and go out for boat rides.  I am grateful that my family has always been so close, getting together for birthdays, Christmas Eve and Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, you name it.

6. Birthdays

Having a summer birthday, I always felt like my birthday lasted forever.  I would have a birthday party with my friends, and then I would also have other birthday celebrations with my family and at Long Beach Island with my mom.

7. Getting Adam Sandler’s autograph

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Adam Sandler came to Connecticut to shoot part of the film, Mr. Deeds.  Fun fact of the day: Winchestertonfieldville, Iowa is actually a town called New Milford.  And the film was set in the winter, but it was shot in June, so the film crew had to make fake snow each day.

My mom and I went to see part of the filming and we stood in line for hours waiting for Adam Sandler’s autograph.  My mom also got to meet Peter Gallagher and she saw Winona Ryder.

8. Butterscotch

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I remember begging my mom for years to get a dog.  Finally, on my sixteenth birthday at Long Beach Island, my mom surprised me by telling me that her gift to me was going to be a dog.  It took a little while to find the right one, but when we entered that shelter in Monroe, I fell in love with Butterscotch immediately.  My mom was a bit unsure since he really wasn’t excited to see us or play with us.  I think that he was just too hot since it was August.  But he ended up becoming a significant member of our family.  We had ten awesome years with Butterscotch.  I wish I could have had a few more, but I will always remember the memories of that cute little guy, and all of the places we went like Kent Falls and Tarrywile.

9. Anti-Prom Party

I know that my mom still regrets my decision to skip my senior prom (or any other high school dance, for that matter), but I do not.  My friends and I had an anti-prom party, which consisted of going to the playground, going out to dinner for pizza, going to Il Bacio’s for ice cream, and then watching movies and having a sleepover.

10. Steubenville East retreat with my youth group

Although I hated my mom for forcing me to go, Steubenville East was the pivotal turning point in my faith journey.  It was there that I decided to devote my life to Christ, and also the time during which I realized that I had an interest in Franciscan University, even though the distance terrified me.

11. My first flight to the Dominican Republic with my mom

1928832_505725611110_8849_n (1)Once I knew that I would be attending Franciscan, my mom wanted me to get on an airplane in case I ever had to fly home from college.  As it turns out, I did fly home twice from college (once to attend my goddaughter’s baptism and once to go to a Lyme disease specialist).  So my mom planned a trip to DR to celebrate her 50th birthday and to get me on an airplane.  I was extremely scared on the flight, and I still don’t exactly enjoy flying, but I’m happy to have conquered my fear since I now travel quite a bit.

12. Franciscan University of Steubenville

I’m so grateful for the education that I received from Franciscan – not just in terms of the teaching pedagogy but also my faith formation.  I was fully prepared to enter the classroom after graduating thanks to the fabulous faculty members at Franciscan and their strong education program. And in terms of Franciscan’s passionate Catholicism, I don’t know where I would be today in my faith journey if it were not for Franciscan.

13. Becoming a Godmother

18700536_10100108079416230_3671843442035731509_oMy goddaughter, Abby, was born during my freshman year of college, so I flew home to go to her baptism.  I can’t believe how old she has gotten and how quickly time is passing.

14. Getting Lyme Disease

I was on a walking pilgrimage in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with my youth group.  I loved the experience, but a week later, I was as sick as a dog, unsure what was wrong with me.  Once starting my sophomore year at Franciscan, I learned that I had Lyme, which is relatively treatable in most people.  Little did I know how much it would change my life, turning into chronic Lyme.  But I have grown in many ways as a result of the Lyme, so although I don’t necessarily embrace it, I see how God has used it to form and strengthen me.

15. ResQ

1929958_509778648790_8041_n 2I can’t really remember how I wrote my first rap, but I just randomly found a beat, wrote a rap, and eventually met Oscar (aka II X).  We recorded six songs together during my years at Franciscan and we performed at three coffeehouses.

16. First mission trip in Ecuador

I had been scheduled to study abroad in Austria, but had to cancel as a result of the Lyme disease since I would not be able to bring enough antibiotics into Europe to last me for an entire semester.  Looking back, I am so happy that I never made it to Austria because if I had, I would have never been able to sign up for a spring break mission trip.  Ecuador was a tough trip — definitely the most grueling mission trip I have yet to experience, but I also found my love for the missions field while there.  We hiked for hours through the mud, carrying heavy backpacks, guitars, and bags full of medical supplies.  We brought doctors, nurses, and priests into remote, jungle areas outside of Misahualli to serve the people.  We set up medical clinics, played with the children, prayed with the communities, had Masses and baptisms, and spent time with the people.

17. First Year of Teaching in Bridgeport, CT

It was a crazy year: starting at Paul Laurence Dunbar School, teaching 7th and 8th grade reading and language arts only to be transferred in October to Central High School to teach 9th and 10th grade due to overcrowded classes.

18. Traveling to San Diego, California

184596_550658969300_3900568_nAfter graduating from Franciscan, I missed my two closest friends, Lizzy and Amy.  Lizzy lived in Virginia and Amy lived in California.  For spring break, I flew out to San Diego to visit Amy and her housemates and fellow Franciscan alumni, Kara and Lea.  Lizzy also flew out and it was so nice getting to see everyone again while exploring beautiful San Diego.

19. Four Years of Teaching in Danbury, CT

I loved working in Bridgeport, but had to switch jobs due to a budget crisis that took place the year that I was hired.  Little did I know that Danbury High School had group of staff members that were incredibly welcoming.  I absolutely loved my four years in Danbury and it was extremely difficult when I decided to leave that job to move to New Jersey.  I remember the tears I shed walking out the doors for the last time and I still miss my fellow colleagues there, but I am very happy teaching in Long Branch now.

20. Traveling to Brazil to meet my sister and Brazilian family

252120_661138756920_781866846_nAfter my sister messaged me on Facebook back in 2012, I was excited to plan a trip to Brazil to finally meet my family.  I went there during Christmas break and it was a whirlwind of a trip.  We had 11 flights in 10 days, traveling to Manaus, Cruzeiro do Sul, and Rio de Janeiro.  I met my sister and her fiance at the time, my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.  My grandpa died not too long after my trip to Brazil, so I am thankful that I was able to meet him before his passing.  Since then I have traveled to Brazil twice: once for my sister’s wedding and once for my grandmother’s 99th birthday.

21. Teaching Trip in Haiti

22008_693890252660_823665868_nA fellow teacher at DHS informed me about a trip for teachers to Port-au-Prince where they needed teachers to provide professional development to teachers in Haiti through Project Teach.  Many teachers in Haiti only have a high school education, so we taught them how to utilize more engaging strategies.  Since I had only been teaching for three years at the time, it was incredibly humbling to be providing professional development to the class of teachers in front of me.  One of the men had been teaching for 35 years and yet he was eager to hear every strategy I had to share.

22. Running a marathon

1378251_710296374660_118341198_nAfter getting Lyme, I was determined that I would start running once my health improved.  I first signed up for a half marathon and then my first full marathon.  Since then, I have completed 5 half marathons, two full marathons, two Spartan Beasts, one super Spartan, three Spartan sprints,  one Tough Mudder, two Belmar Five Milers, and one 10-K.

23. Seeing Eminem in concert

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Eminem has been my favorite musician since some time around eighth grade when I was finally allowed to buy his CDs once we found the edited versions at FYE. When I heard that he was coming to perform with Rihanna at MetLife Stadium for their Monster Tour, I knew that I had to go.  I spent more than I would ever spend again on a concert to go and then arrived super early on the day of the concert to ensure that I would be in the front row since my section was standing room only.

24. Moving to New Jersey

The timeline was crazy.  Go to the last interview for Long Branch and accept the job offer.  Find an apartment in under a week.  Go on a mission trip to Rwanda.  Pack up my apartment in Danbury and fill a U-Haul.  Drive to Jersey to begin my new teacher professional development day at Long Branch while living out of a spare bedroom at my ex-boyfriend’s parents’ house while I wait for my apartment to be ready.  Leave work to meet my mom and uncle at my house with the U-Haul to begin unloading.  Go to my first day of work while my house is a mess of boxes.

25. Scoring AP exams

13450962_910561681380_7318586538020961940_nI traveled to Kansas City, Missouri for my first year scoring AP exams and I was really excited to get to room with my friend from DHS and to see my friend, Kristin, who was a zookeeper at the Kansas City Zoo.  I’ve also had the opportunity to travel to Tampa, Florida, twice for AP scoring.  I have learned so much through my years of scoring and it always helps me to improve my teaching practice.

26. Mission trip to Nicaragua with Living Water International

14138684_930197101840_4572372580567899979_oI went to Nicaragua for a week to help drill a well for a community that lacked access to clean water.  We also provided hygiene lessons, played with the kids, and did arts and crafts with the women and children while the men were working on drilling the well.  Our translator was sick, so I also helped to translate Bible stories into Spanish, despite the fact that I hadn’t really been practicing my Spanish much.

27. Becoming a part of Young Adults in Faith

14890390_947361404440_2687692922311237888_o 2I had been wanting to start a Catholic young adult group at my church in Belmar, but our parish doesn’t have that many young adults.  I met Gabriella, a Catholic DJ who soon became a close friend.  She invited me to Bible study and holy hour and I became a member of Young Adults in faith, which has been such a blessing.  Through the group, I have formed great friendships and that is also where I met AJ.

28.  Mission trip to Rwanda with Go Be Love International

I had always wanted to travel to Africa, so I was extremely excited about having the opportunity to volunteer there.  We traveled to Gisenyi, which borders Lake Kivu, Bugesera, where some of the most poor Rwandans live and Kigali, the capital of the country.  We volunteered our time, shared our love, and we visited the Genocide Memorial Museum to keep everything in perspective.  And then I stayed two extra days to meet Patience, my sponsored child, and to go gorilla trekking.

29.Mission trip to Uganda with Go Be Love International

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Last summer I traveled again with Go Be Love, but this time to Uganda, where we visited a children’s prison, volunteered with Sole Hope to remove jiggers and provide people with a pair of shoes that had been made from jeans that were donated and cut by myself and my students at Long Branch, and we volunteered at Amani Baby Cottage.

30. My relationship with AJ

When was your first date?  People sometimes ask that, but we never really had one.  We met at Bible study, initially not considering a relationship at all.  I thought AJ was a lot younger than me.  He thought that I was into the dating scene and interested in older guys.  But during Bible study, we noticed some similarities, especially regarding working out and our love for spending time outside.  The first time we hung out together was to go kayaking.  Then we went hiking at Hartshorne Park (one of the most fun days ever) and out to dinner at Mr. Shrimp for Restaurant Week.  Then we went to the movies to see Hacksaw Ridge.  Soon we were hanging out all of the time.  Eventually, I went to the Poconos with him for his friend, Sway’s birthday, and I guess the rest is history.

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I have so many other memories, but these are the ones that came to mind the most quickly.  30 years of adventures, and so many more still in store.

 

 

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2017: My Year in Review

As I’ve done for the past three years (201420152016), here is my 2017 year in review.  Last year, I was incredibly thankful for having met my new friends from Bible study and starting a new relationship.  Now, I have even more to be grateful for this year.  So here is what happened since last year:

January:

-AJ and I rang in the new year at Devin and Elise’s wedding in Connecticut

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-Then we went hiking at Lover’s Leap in New Milford, CT and Kent Falls in Kent, CT the next day

-Frost Valley in Claryville, NY

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-I met up with Lizzy in Philadelphia since she was there for clinicals for vet school (before graduating in May!!!)

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-Camden Aquarium with AJ

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-Hiking with AJ and Bolt in Freehold

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February:

-Hiking at Lover’s Leap in New Milford, CT again with AJ

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-Grandma’s birthday party

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-Valentine’s Day dinner at Rooney’s in Long Branch

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-Going to Absecon Lighthouse, the Atlantic City Boardwalk, and Lucy the Elephant in Margate with AJ, Sway, and Denielle

March:

-My mom’s birthday

April:

-Escape room in Freehold with AJ, Daniel, and Brady

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-AJ’s 25th birthday party

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-United States Marine Corps Educator Workshop in Parris Island, South Carolina

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-Sway’s Confirmation at the Easter Vigil

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-Easter in Connecticut

-Hiking at Bushkill Falls for AJ’s birthday

-Finishing the Spartan Beast with AJ in Vernon, NJ

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May:

-Bible study at the Freehold Mall

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-Battleship USS New Jersey in Camden

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-Father Larry’s talk with Bible study

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-Abby & Lauren’s Irish step dancing recital

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-My cousin Lauren’s first communion

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June:

-Scoring AP exams in Tampa, Florida

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July:

-Acro yoga in my back yard

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-4th of July in Connecticut for my grandpa’s birthday

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-Vacation in LBI with my mom

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Barnegat Lighthouse

-Churrascaria for my early 29th birthday dinner

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-Acro yoga attempt #2 in my back yard

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-Volunteering in Uganda with Go Be Love International.  Sole Hope in Jinja

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-Free day at the Nile River

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August:

-Volunteering with Go Be Love International at Amani Baby Cottage in Jinja

September:

-Phil and Marissa’s wedding in Pennsylvania

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-Chris and Grace’s wedding in Pennsylvania

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-Visiting Franciscan University for the first time since I graduated 7 years ago

October:

-Jersey Shore Half Marathon in Sandy Hook

-Getting engaged on October 9th

-Connecticut for a family party

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-Pro-Life dinner at Doolan’s in Spring Lake

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-Lizzy visited & we went Halloween bowling

November:

-AJ’s cousin, Jared, took engagement photos for us

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-Celebrated Thanksgiving with AJ’s family in Somerset, NJ

-Hiking at Hartshorne Park

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December:

-Christmas Eve in Connecticut at Grandma & Grandpa’s house

-Christmas Day in Connecticut: morning at Grandma & Grandpa’s house, shoveling snow, and then Christmas Day at Aunt Suzi & Uncle Bob’s house

-Young Adults in Faith Christmas celebration at St. Robert’s in Freehold

2017 was a great year.  Looking back at January, when AJ and I had only been together for a month, I never expected that by New Year’s Eve, we would be planning a wedding, figuring out where we want to live, and having intense conversations about the future.  So much can change in one year and I am thrilled to see what 2018 entails.

I thank God for all of His abundant blessings and pray for an amazing 2018.

 

 

The Most Romantic Love Song?

I was driving home from work the other day and the dj on the radio was introducing the next song by saying that it is the most romantic song.  It’s the song that people should play when spending time with their significant others on Valentine’s Day.
Which song is that, you may ask?  James Arthur’s song, “Say You Won’t Let Go.”
Now I’m not here to rant about the song itself.  I actually like the song.  However, I hope that anyone who listens closely to the lyrics can understand why I absolutely do not believe that it is the most romantic song.
Does it sound nice?  Yes.  If you don’t listen to the first verse, it sounds like a super emotional love song.  But let’s take a closer look.  Here is the video if you don’t know which song I’m referring to: James Arthurt – “Say You Won’t Let Go”
Here are the beginning lyrics:
I met you in the dark, you lit me up
You made me feel as though I was enough
We danced the night away, we drank too much
I held your hair back when
You were throwing up
Then you smiled over your shoulder
For a minute, I was stone-cold sober
I pulled you closer to my chest
And you asked me to stay over
I said, I already told ya
I think that you should get some rest
I knew I loved you then
But you’d never know
‘Cause I played it cool when I was scared of letting go
I know I needed you
But I never showed
But I wanna stay with you until we’re grey and old
Just say you won’t let go

This is the love song of 2017, according to that dj?  Gosh, I hope not.
We danced the night away, we drank too much
I held your hair back when
You were throwing up
They went out dancing, got wasted, and the girl was puking while he held back her hair.  Cute.  Not my idea of the start of any really romantic love song.  Let’s continue.
Then you smiled over your shoulder

For a minute, I was stone-cold sober
I pulled you closer to my chest
And you asked me to stay over
I said, I already told ya
I think that you should get some rest
I knew I loved you then
So he realized that he loved this girl in the middle of her puke fest?  Picture that for a moment.  Two people go out to the club, dance the night away, and drink too much.  They go back to the girl’s apartment.  The guy needs to hold her hair back while she vomits from her binge drinking.  In the middle of all of this, she turns around to look at him over her shoulder.  Her mouth probably still reeks of vomit residue, her eyes are probably red and glassy from alcohol and fatigue.  He’s drunk too, but he feels sober for a moment when he makes eye contact with her.
She wants him to spend the night with her (mind you, all of this is said while under the influence of alcohol).  He says she needs to sleep (clearly, since she’s drunk enough to puke).  But at that moment, he has the epiphany that he is in love.
Aww, the doves may now be released.  What could sound more romantic?  If only I had a similar story to tell.  If only a guy loved me that much.
Sorry for the sarcasm.  But seriously.  Can we put our standards for love a little bit higher than this?  I don’t want someone to fall in love with me while I’m puking due to my bad decisions in drinking too much.  I don’t want someone to realize their love for me only while they’re intoxicated.
Can we not expect more from our relationships?
Sure, the song gets better later on in talking about how the couple will spend their lives together and raise children together, so it’s not just a one night stand.  But still.  It should by no means be considered one of the most romantic love songs.
Let’s write a song about how much we love our significant other because they push us every single day to be the best version of ourselves.  Let’s discuss how we knew it was love when we realized that we wanted to be that person’s partner through not just the fun times and adventures, but the mundane tasks of daily life as well.  We look up to the person for their character and personality, and we feel utter awe and respect for them.  We love them so much that we desire the best for their future, even if that does not necessarily include us beside them.  We are willing to let them go if that is what would be the best for them, but we hope with all our might that that is not the case.
That is the love song that I want to hear.  That is much more romantic than a song about realizing we love someone while they are so drunk that they are getting sick.

2016 Year in Review

As I’ve done for the past two years (2014: My Year in Review, 2015: My Year in Review), here is my 2016 year in review.  Everyone seemed so eager to see the passing of 2016, but I don’t feel that way at all.  While I am excited to see what this next year of life brings me, I am content looking back at all that happened in 2016.  I feel beyond blessed at how different my life is today, January 2nd, than January 2nd last year.  There are so many people I didn’t even know last year today who I am now happy to call my friends.  I had a great year and I look forward to an even better 2017.

January:

-I started off the new year in San Antonio, Texas, watching fireworks exploding all over the place at the passing of midnight and playing lots of games like jumbo Jenga before flying back to Jersey

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-Annual trip to Frost Valley in Claryville, NY

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Posing with the snowman and my cousin
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Hiking to High Falls with painted faces
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The crew

February:

-The end of my last relationship

-Caidin came to visit and we went to Twin Lights in Highlands

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-My mom traveled to Israel / Tel Aviv / Jerusalem / Bethlehem / Rome for her birthday pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  She got to renew her baptismal vows in the Jordan River.

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March:

-I traveled to Brazil for Spring Break.  First, I was with my sister, Vanessa, and my brother-in-law, Carlos, for Easter.  We went to see an amazing waterfall.

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Swimming by the waterfall with my brother-in-law, Carlos

-Then I went to Manaus for my grandma’s 99th birthday.  I am so thankful that I got to go and spend some time with her because that was the second and last time I would ever see her.

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I also got to see lots of other family members while there and I went swimming with river dolphins with two of my uncles.

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-My mom’s 60th birthday

April:

-Although my mom’s birthday was in March, we had a family party for her in April

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May:

-My cousin, Dan, graduated from UConn

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-I ran the Run the Hook 10k in Sandy Hook, NJ

June:

-I went to senior prom to see my students

-Finished my first year teaching in New Jersey

-Traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, to grade AP English Language & Composition exams with my friend from DHS, Elise

-While in Kansas City, I also got to see my friend, Kristin, from high school, who is now a zookeeper at the Kansas City Zoo

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-Ran the Fairfield Half Marathon and set a personal record of 1:55

July:

-Went to Connecticut for my grandpa’s birthday party

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-Ran the Belmar five miler

-My friend, Juan, came to visit me in Jersey

-Met on Monday nights with the Belmar Area Catholic Young Adult group that I helped run

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-Through the Belmar young adult group, I met my friend Gabriella, and through her, my Bible study, which has been such an amazing blessing and has brought me so many new friends

-Went to the sand castle competition in Belmar

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-Went to Long Beach Island for a week with my mom

-I turned 28 in Long Beach Island

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Birthday lunch

August:

-Ran the River to Sea Relay race with an awesome group of people to raise money for Covenant House

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-I started riding my bike all around the shore

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Riding my bike through Avon by-the-sea

-Traveled to Nicaragua with Living Water International

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My amazing team

-We helped to drill a well to bring clean water to a rural village

-We also taught hygiene lessons and Bible stories to the women and children.  I helped to translate.

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The community with their finished well

-My friend, Lizzy, visited since she was in Philadelphia for vet clinicals, so we had a beach day

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-Worked on improving my yoga and handstands
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-Hung out with new friends from Bible study14212800_931558857870_9142389201927948083_n

September:

-As of the 1st, I have officially lived in New Jersey for one year

-Started my second year of teaching in New Jersey

-My Brazilian grandmother passed away right before her 99 1/2 birthday

-Went to the Philadelphia Zoo with my friend, Adam

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-Went kayaking with my friend, Adam

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October:

-Ran the Jersey Shore Half Marathon in Sandy Hook

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-Tenth Avenue North concert with my friend, Amanda

-Went to Catholic Underground in NYC with friends from Bible study

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-More kayaking with friends

-Ran the Atlantic City Marathon.  My mom and my friend, Adam, came to cheer me on

-I saw whales a few times from the beach in the fall

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-I went swimming in the ocean the day before Halloween

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November:

-I hosted our weekly Bible study once at my house in November.  It was tight to squish in 15 people, but we managed.

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-Bar Crawl in Asbury Park to raise money for Covenant House

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-Did some November stand up paddling and kayaking in the ocean in my wetsuit from my uncle

-Kayaking Shark River with my friend, Kate

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-Home to Connecticut for Thanksgiving

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December:

-Went to see the ice sculptures in Tinton Falls

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Mimicking the ice sculptures

-Out in Asbury for my friend, Stacy’s, birthday

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-Weekend in the Poconos for Sway’s 25th birthday

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-New relationship with AJ on December 11th

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Climbing a tree in the Poconos

-Graham cracker gingerbread house building with AJ

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-Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house

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-Christmas day at my aunt and uncle’s house

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-Devin & Elise’s New Year’s Eve wedding with AJ

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So here is goodbye to 2016 and hello to 2017.  This year should be another great one, filled with more adventures!

Advent

I was watching an Ascension Presents video today from Father Mike Schmitz, entitled “Advent: More than a Chocolate Calendar.”  If you’re interested, you can view the video below:

 

Father Schmitz talks about how Advent is a time of joyful preparation for Christ’s coming.  Then he discusses the difference between joy and happiness:

“Joy is the abiding sense of well-being that comes from the fact that I know that God loves me.”

“Joy is not dependent on circumstances.”

“Joy is a choice.”

“I know the Father knows and loves me, despite my circumstances.”

These messages about joy really speak to me because I have felt this way quite a bit lately.  I feel truly joyful. But that doesn’t mean that life is perfect.

Life on earth can never be perfect because true perfection can only be found with God, which we will only encounter if and when we reach our ultimate goal of our union with Him in Heaven.

If joy depended upon our earthly circumstances, then nobody would be truly joyful.  There will always be suffering, whether it is our own suffering or seeing the pain of others, especially loved ones.

There will always be issues at work, within our families, in our relationships, with our friends, within our country, politics, and natural disasters.

If we wait for perfection in order to feel happy, then we will wait until death.

But joy is different.  I can say that I am joyful right now because I am so grateful for the ways that God has blessed me and the ways that my relationship with Him has grown.  Sure, there are still obstacles, but I know that He is with me, guiding me through life’s trials.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” -Psalm 23:4

Father Schmitz says that Advent has three main goals:

  1. To worship Jesus
  2. To celebrate His coming
  3. To prepare for His second coming

He then poses an interesting question: “If Jesus came today, would there be any time for him?”

Our world, especially the United States, is so busy.  This time of year is particularly stressful and overwhelming for many people.

Unfortunately, Christ often gets left out of Christmas.  People instead focus on buying presents, putting up Christmas trees/lights/decorations, baking Christmas cookies, attending ugly sweater parties, sending Christmas cards, making gingerbread houses, drinking egg nog, cooking, and traveling to be with family.

None of those things is bad to do.  But sometimes we get too wrapped up in the material aspects of Christmas instead of remembering the whole point — Jesus Christ.

Even traveling to visit family can sometimes hinder us.  Some people end up missing church services because they are driving to visit family.  But the holiday wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for Jesus.  He needs to remain the priority, or else what are we really celebrating?

If Jesus came to your house knocking on your door right now, would you have time for him?  Would you be able to fit him in somewhere in the middle of that to-do list and that schedule of events?  Or would you be so busy that you wouldn’t even notice the knock at the door?  Would you ignore Him and continue moving forward with the hustle and bustle of the holiday?

It’s great that people focus more on family during the Christmas season, but we must remember to also focus on Jesus.

He is, in fact, the reason for the season, after all.

 

A Season of Gratitude

I try to always be aware of the importance of gratitude.  It is so easy to focus on the things that we with we could improve in our lives.  This is especially true in our prayer lives.  It’s easy to get caught up in constantly asking God for things.  There is always someone whose health could improve, someone who can use a new job, and many other requests that we have for God.

But we must remember to also thank God for all that He has given us and all of the prayers that He has answered.

With the approach of Thanksgiving and the Christmas season of Advent, it is now the perfect time to focus on gratitude.

So I want to reflect on my year and all that I am grateful for.

-My health – I’ve been doing well with my Lyme disease for a while, finally able to get back into running races again this year

-My family – Since I no longer live close to my family, it makes me even more grateful for the time I get to spend with them during the holidays.  I am thankful that they are only two hours away so that it’s not a difficult task to go home to Connecticut.

-My new friends – I have been so blessed with all of the new people I have met this past year, meeting people at work, at the beach, and in Bible study, and my young adult group.

-My Bible study – It is through this Bible study that I have been able to meet most of these new friends.  I am so grateful to have a group of people who are pushing me to grow in my faith.

-My apartment – I love living so close to the beach.

-The ocean – It keeps me sane on the days when I am stressed out.

-My job. I love teaching high school English so much.

-My students.  I have a really great group of kids this year.

Running

Racing

Biking

-My wet suit from my uncle that now allows me to go kayaking and stand up paddling even when the weather isn’t super warm

-The beach

-Having a roof over my head

-Living in a first world country so that I don’t have to struggle each day to survive

-My love for volunteering

-All of the people I have met through my volunteer opportunities both locally and abroad

-My priests

-My sponsored child, Patience, and his family

-That I have had the chance to meet the Brazilian side of my family, especially my now deceased grandma and grandpa

Desserts

Traveling

Waterfalls

Hiking

-My Catholic faith

Is Love Worth the Pain of Loss?

I signed up for this when I said that I would be your girlfriend.

I signed up for this pain that I now experience.  I knew that was a side effect of love, especially since, for the first year, our relationship was a long distance one.

But when I was feeling those butterflies, I never imagined that the pain could hurt this much.

Was it worth it?  Of course.  I wouldn’t take away those last 2 years that I knew you.  Sure, it would be easier, but we had great memories and experiences.

I just wish that this pain wasn’t the end result of us.

I put on a shirt today that I had already worn once before since it was last washed.  It still had the smell of you on it.  I must have worn it last on a day when we were together.  I could take it off any put it in my laundry bag, but instead, I keep bending down to smell you.  It makes it seem as though you are not as far away.

I keep having moments when I’m doing better and then suddenly, just hearing a song lyric causes the tears to come flooding down my face again.

I’m trying to forget about you.  But all I keep wondering is how you’re doing.  If you’re feeling as badly as I am.  If you think your decision was a mistake.  Or if you’re still confident, knowing that we were not meant to be.

All I want to do is call you, talk to you, hold you for just one more moment.

When we said our last goodbye I gave you a hug because I knew it was the last one.  You held my head in such a tender way while we both cried before you turned and walked out the door.

I want to believe that I’m okay with out you, but right now that is just not the case.  You make me want to be a better person.

But now you’re gone and I don’t know where to go next.

I know it’s only been about a week, but it feels like a month since I last heard your voice.

That pain in my stomach just won’t subside.

I keep praying for answers, for peace, for calm.  But you interrupt every thought and prayer.

I’m trying to spend time with family and friends to get my mind off of you.  But it doesn’t work.  My thoughts keep drifting away to you.

Every story I want to tell somehow involves you or your family or something we did together.

Are you experiencing a similar situation?  Or are you already moving on?

I want you to be happy.  But I also want you to want me.  I want us to be happy.  Preferably, together.

But I also don’t want someone who doesn’t want me fully.

So many mixed emotions.

I know that there are a million wounded souls.  I know people have experienced far worse, more traumatic breakups.  I know that a breakup while dating can’t possibly compare to the end of a marriage.

But right now all of that doesn’t help me to feel any better.  Because my pain is real and gosh, it hurts so badly.

I thought you were the one for me.  I really did.  And I know that, at least for some amount of time, you thought the same thing.  We had talked so much about our future.  I had let all of my walls and guards down for you.

I know that it was worth it.  But gosh, do I miss you, especially on this miserable Valentine’s Day.

 

I Want to Hate You

I want to hate you.  I want you to be the horrible ex-boyfriend.  I want to be able to realize that I am now better off without you in my life.  I wanted you to say that you cheated on me so that I would at least have a reason.

But you didn’t.  And I don’t hate you.  You’re not even close to horrible.  And I’m not so sure that I’m better off without you.

It seems that Valentine’s Day is not my luckiest time.  I’ve never liked Valentine’s Day, with or without a boyfriend.  As a single person, it obviously sucks, but even when in a relationship, there is still usually some letdown when one person’s actions don’t live up to the other person’s high expectations.

I broke it off with my last boyfriend the day before Valentine’s Day.  Now you broke my heart just 6 days before.  Is it karma?

I want to be sure that you were wrong for me.  That we’re too different.  That you were just a rebound relationship or a little fling.

But you weren’t.  We had our differences, but we also had our similarities.  Initially, I thought you could have been a rebound, but it turned into so much more than that.  Almost two years of happiness.  Sure, there were arguments here and there.  That’s normal.  But for the most part, I loved each moment I spent with you.

We were making plans for our future.  My heart had no question of “if”, but rather “when?”  When will we get engaged?  Where will we live?

I had such a strong degree of certainty, so unlike my last relationship, when each week was filled with new doubts.

And then it all came crashing down on one random Monday evening.

When you texted and asked if you could come over, I prepared myself for the worst.  Our date night is Wednesday, after all.  I asked if everything was okay and your response was, “nobody is dying.”

Uh oh, I thought.  Could this be what I’m thinking is about to happen?  Is he about to break up with me?  

No, it can’t be.  He uploaded new pictures of us together from our trip to Texas last night.  Why would he do that if he’s about to break up with me?   No.  We just talked on the phone for 30 minutes about our Mondays.   We talked about plans for the summer.  

But my gut was right.  In your mind, it was over.

And your confidence about it killed me.  Looking at those tear-filled eyes while you told me how certain you were that we were just not meant to be.

All I kept asking for was a reason.  What was it that was the problem?  I needed an answer, but you gave me none.

All I got was the, “You’re so amazing,  you’re beautiful on the inside and out.  You’re one of the nicest people I know.  You deserve someone better than me” typical nonsense.

Why nonsense, you may ask?  Because if I’m that perfect, then what is the problem?  Is it you?  I know you haven’t been happy with certain aspects of your life lately, but I didn’t think that I was part of the problem.

I was having my own struggles with my health and with my job, but you were the person I always wanted to turn to.  You would always listen.  I could always count on your hug to make me feel better.  But now that is all gone.

We were supposed to go to Baltimore this weekend.  We were supposed to relax at the inner harbor and wander around the aquarium.  I couldn’t wait for today.  But now that today is playing out to be much different.  Instead of going on a little trip with you, I’m now going home to spend time with family and friends, with the hopes of forgetting about you, if even for a moment.

“But you’re so much better off than me,” you told me.  “You have a beautiful apartment.  You have things together.”  Really?  I’m the one who now lives in a place where I don’t know anyone but you and your family.  You are surrounded by family and friends to support you.  Mine now live 2 hours away.

I want to hate you.  I wish I never wanted to see you again.  But I don’t.  I keep having the unrealistic idea that I’ll just happen to come across you any time I go anywhere.  That you’ll realize your mistake and come running back to me.  But that confidence you had in your decision suggests otherwise.

And then I saw your stepbrother a few days after you ended everything.  I could have walked the opposite way and ignored him, but instead, I decided to say hello, not realizing that he had no idea that it was over.  He asked where you were.  I had to tell him about the situation, as the tears began to stream down my cheeks.

He was dumbfounded.  He couldn’t believe the news.  He was so kind, so encouraging, and he gave me the hug that I needed so much.

But he also gave me a tiny glimmer of hope.  He was so amazed that we were over that he told me to make you wait for me if you changed your mind and came running back.  That’s what I want, after all, for you to come running back to me.

I keep replaying our conversation in my mind.  How your brother really couldn’t believe the news.  How much he had had faith in us.

I want to hate you, but I can’t.  Because I still want you in my life.  When you said it was over, it didn’t end the love I have for you.

Yes, I ripped up and threw away every picture of us right in front of you.  I handed you the things that I had here just for you.  That iced tea that I’d never drink.  Those peanut butter m&ms that I had bought just for you.  I wanted you to feel some of the pain that I was experiencing.  I wanted you to see my heartbreak.

But really, I don’t hate you at all.  But I also don’t want someone who doesn’t want to be with me.

I’m trying to move forward.  I’m trying to tell myself that if you weren’t the one, that I will find someone better.  But right now I can’t imagine anyone better.  I want you and all of your idiosyncrasies, all of your quirks and imperfections.

I can’t hate you because I still love you.

 

2015: My Year in Review

Last year, I wrote a blog entitled 2014 Year in Review.  2014 was a busy year, and also on of the saddest years of my life since I had to put my dog, Butterscotch, to sleep.  But there were also positive memories like multiple Spartan races, spring break in Marco Island, Florida, and a trip to Brazil for my sister’s wedding.

Unfortunately, I was not able to run even 1 race in 2014 since I was dealing with Lyme symptoms for the majority of the year.  I’m hoping that will change for 2016.  Regardless, though, I still had a pretty great 2015.

Here’s a look at this past year.  2015 in Review:

JANUARY:

-Started off the New Year with Matt making dinosaur chicken nuggets and shaped mac & cheese for dinner

-Annual trip to Frost Valley (in Claryville, NY) with my family

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New Year’s Eve dinner courtesy of Matthew
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At High Falls – Frost Valley
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Our family at Frost Valley

FEBRUARY:

-Family party at the dinner theater for my Grandma’s 80th birthday

-Day trip to Philly with Matthew

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Westchester Dinner Theater in NY
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Drexel’s Academy of Natural Sciences in Philly
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New Year’s Eve dinner courtesy of Matthew

MARCH:

-My mom’s birthday

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APRIL:

-Hosting my family’s Easter at my apartment in Danbury

-Trip to the Philadelphia Zoo

-Spring break in Orange Beach, Alabama with my mom

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Easter
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Easter egg hunt
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Easter

 

MAY:

-Impractical Jokers at Mohegan Sun for my mom’s birthday present

-DHS Senior prom at the Amber Room

-Mother’s Day party at my grandparents’ house

-One year anniversary with Matthew

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Impractical Jokers at Mohegan Sun
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DHS Senior Prom – The Amber Room
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Mother’s Day

JUNE:

-Belated anniversary dinner at the Churrascaria in Port Chester, NY

-What I didn’t realize at the time was my last DHS graduation, since I was not yet aware that I would be moving to new Jersey less than 2 months later

-Going to see the Twin Lights in Highlands, NJ

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One year anniversary dinner

JULY:

-4th of July party for my grandpa’s birthday

-Getting hired as an English teacher in New Jersey

-Finding my new apartment

-One week vacation in Long Beach Island, NJ

-My 27th birthday

-Mission trip to Rwanda with Visiting Orphans

 

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Grandpa’s birthday
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My 27th birthday
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LBI with my mom
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Long Beach Island, New Jersey

 

AUGUST:

-Visiting my sponsored child, Patience, in Rwanda

-Gorilla trekking in Rwanda

-Visiting Lizzy in Virginia

-Packing up my classroom at DHS

-Visiting Brazilian family in New York City

-Moving from Danbury, CT to Belmar, NJ

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My sponsored child, Patience
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With Patience’s family

 

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Manassas, Virginia
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Packing up my classroom…very bittersweet
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New classroom in Jersey

SEPTEMBER:

-Starting my 6th year of teaching and first year teaching in Jersey.

-Grandma & Grandpa’s 60th anniversary party

OCTOBER:

-Tyler Ward concert

-New last day of the season swimming record: October 11th

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Tyler Ward concert in Asbury Park
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Swimming in the ocean in Belmar on October 11th

NOVEMBER:

-Visiting with Amy and going up to Massachusetts with her for a wedding

-Thanksgiving

-Jets vs. Dolphins football game for Matthew’s birthday present

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Tina & Tony’s wedding in Massachusetts with Amy

DECEMBER:

-Christmas Eve at Grandma & Grandpa’s house

-Christmas in Connecticut

-Visiting Amy in Austin

-Visiting Dan, Vivi, and Ryan in San Antonio

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Trying on cowboy hats in Austin
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HOPE Outdoor Gallery in Austin
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Austin, Texas
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San Antonio River Walk

2015 ended up being a pretty busy year.  I spent time in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Massachusetts, Texas, and Rwanda.  Now it’s time to see what 2016 will bring…

No Resolutions for Me

I’ll admit it. I can be a bit of a cynic. Although I absolutely love Christmas and Easter, I despise both New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. Well…despise is quite a harsh word. But it’s pretty close to accurate.

The clock hits midnight every night. Every 24-hour cycle that passes and we’re hit with another midnight. Just because someone decided that January 1st would mark the start of a new year doesn’t really change much in my mind. It’s just another midnight. Another day that has passed. If April 12th was the date someone arbitrarily decided to be the new year, then everyone would be going out partying on the 11th. But it’s really just the passing of another day.

And the New York City ball drop? Each year, I forget how anticlimactic the ball drop really is. In my mind, this giant crystal ball drops (like actually drops, quickly) while fireworks fire in the background. What actually happens is that the ball, although large, appears quite small since it’s on top of a building. And it starts dropping, very slowly, as the countdown to midnight begins. Once the clock strikes 12, it’s already at the bottom. Done. No spectacular firework show. Just a bunch of people yelling “Happy New Year”, kissing, and throwing confetti. The end. Time to try to get back home without being hit by a drunk driver or arrested for a DUI.

It looks pretty nice if you could actually see the ball up close
It looks pretty nice if you could actually see the ball up close
But because it's so high, it just looks like a small white circle slowly moving
But because it’s so high, it just looks like a small white circle slowly moving

Now there are some aspects of the holiday that I enjoy. The countdowns of the top music videos. The most googled terms of the year. The most popular celebrities. The biggest news-worthy events. Those, I get a kick out of. It’s fun to look back on the year and remember all of the events that passed, both good and bad.

But another aspect of the holiday that I disdain? New Year’s resolutions.

I have never made a New Year’s resolution and I plan to keep it that way.

First of all, it’s often discussed how few resolutions last past the month of January. By mid-February, most of these resolutions are all but dead. Gyms know this. They offer lots of deals around the new year to lure in those people who just decided to lose weight for the new year, knowing that these people will continue paying monthly fees but will most likely not take up any space once January passes. It’s common knowledge that most New Year’s resolutions do not last very long. The same goes for the healthy food items in the fridge. People plan to lose weight, so they go overboard purchasing healthy food items, only to soon realize that they can’t keep up with that lifestyle, either due to finances, boredom, time, or because they just don’t enjoy the taste.

I can make a resolution on any random day. And I believe it’s these commitments that last longer. When I decide to change something in my life, I can make that decision on my own time, rather than feeling forced to pick something to change on January 1st.

Maybe some people need the push of the new year to get them headed in the right direction, but for me it’s just too cliche. The “new year, new me” mentality. Ehhh, no thanks. If I want a new me, I’d rather make that change mid-May when I have decided for myself that I want a new me, not just because I heard everyone else proclaim their resolutions and decided to jump on the bandwagon.

If a New Year’s resolution is truly what you need to start a positive change in your life, then by all means, go for it. But if you’re just changing something because you feel like you need to pick something, then I’m sorry to inform you, but it probably won’t really work out.

This year, I plan to continue eating healthy, running, taking time to enjoy the simple moments, and spending time in prayer and with God. But I don’t need a resolution for that. I will do these things because they fulfill my life, not because it’s January 1st and I need a change.

If you made a resolution, I wish you the best of luck. And if you didn’t because, like me, you believe this holiday is overrated, then I still wish you the best of luck.

Let’s all go “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,” as Henry David Thoreau once stated, with or without an actual resolution to do so.

Happy 2015.