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
Every 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
Also 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.
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
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.
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
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
My 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.
I 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
After 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
After 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
A 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
After 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
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
I 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
I 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
I 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
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.
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.