Friday, December 30, 2011

Talking. [Resolution 4]

Yeah....so, it's almost 2012 (insert bad cliche about time flying here). This is the fourth post in a series on New Years Resolutions; mine, and others. Read my other resolutions here, here and here.

I have a secret. Do you want to hear it? It might surprise you, so prepare yourself. I'll give you some time and post this nice video of two hipsters singing a song in a hipster way.




Did I give you enough time to prepare? Okay, make sure you're sitting down. Here's the secret:

I'm shy.

Yes! I'm shy. I love to laugh and I love to talk and I love to meet new people. But I'm terribly shy. Contradictory, I know. But if I have to do the approaching in a social setting, good luck getting me to do it. And, if I meet you one time, I'm usually afraid that you won't remember me and that I'll look weird for remembering you...so I smile, but not enough to be a creep. Because who wants a creep approaching them at Whole Foods?

As someone who will be looking for a job come July 27 (know any nonprofits in need of someone to give them a voice? Give me a call!), I need to learn how to approach people. And to not be afraid to remind them who I am. Or better yet, stop assuming that they don't remember me.

It's a shame that I'm so shy, at the beginning, because that's really not who I am. Once you get to know me, I'll never shut up. And I'll laugh so loud that you'll be embarrassed to be out in public with me. But if you see me out somewhere and we've only met once, you're going to have to approach me. Because the idea of approaching people just makes me feel awkward.

So, there's my fourth resolution for 2012. I'm going to start approaching people and stop being so darn shy. The more I do it, the more comfortable I'll be. And then I'll have more friends and gainful employment! And who doesn't want that?

(Between you and me, this will probably help in my dating life too. But. That stays between us.)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Supporting. [Resolution 3]

Yeah....so, it's almost 2012 (insert bad cliche about time flying here). This is the third post in a series on New Years Resolutions; mine, and others. Read my other resolutions here and here.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love my job. I love it for so many reasons, but mainly it's because I'm in the neighborhood. It's my job to love and care for where I live. Isn't that great?

Because I am all about the neighborhood, I get to do things like walk over to the Boulevard to check on the trees. Half an hour to roam the streets? Definitely work. Take a walk around the commercial core on a sunny day. I pop in to the businesses and say hello. Part of the job!

I also consider it part of my job to support these local businesses. Yes, I could go over to Target and grab a cup of Starbucks. But, I could also walk nearly the same distance in the other direction and grab a cup of direct trade coffee from Kazanda's (her dad grows her beans on his farm in Haiti. Seriously!).

It's not just in East Liberty, though. Pittsburgh has plenty of small, locally-owned businesses. So, in 2012, I resolve to support local businesses more than I did in 2011. Farmer's markets (East Liberty has one year-round and one Citiparks summer market. How lucky are we?), shops on Butler Street, Kazanda's.

What kind of new years resolutions are you cooking up?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Writing. [Resolution 2]

Yeah....so, it's almost 2012 (insert bad cliche about time flying here). This is the second post in a series on New Years Resolutions; mine, and others.


Time for resolution number two! I've had this here little blog for 16 months, and it's time I start acting like it! Other than my (unbelievable, cheated) month with NaBloPoMo, I haven't been the most consistent writer.

I don't mean to ignore you. I have the best of intentions, really. But when I open the Blogger window, then I open another window and pretty soon I've been Pinning for two hours and my blog post isn't done. Or, like what just happened now, I opened Facebook and debated about a new cover photo for my timeline for 30 minutes. I'm sorry. In 2012, I vow to write more. Here, and otherwise!

For now, it's a good thing that people like Shannon (AKA @BrassyLibrarian) are around to keep me writing. Shannon and I met out of a mutual fear of attending the PodCamp mixer (along with Carrie and Lauri) alone. We had an enjoyable time at #pcpgh6 and I've loved reading her blog, A Librarian's Lists and Letters ever since! Seriously, read her stuff because it's great.

Anyways, I was thrilled when Shannon asked for guest posters. I've been thinking for awhile about the characters that I've seen nearly every day on my walk to work. What better way to express myself than through an open letter? It's mostly a list of gratitude.

Check it out over at A Librarian's Lists and Letters!

Learning. [Resolution 1]

Yeah....so, it's almost 2012 (insert bad cliche about time flying here). This is the first post in a series on New Years Resolutions; mine, and others.

This time of year is used for a lot of things: family, vacation (maybe a vacation from family), finishing up the end-of-the-year tasks, prepping for the year ahead. It's a busy time. We're supposed to write resolutions: the things that we're going to work on over the next 365 (or 366) days. Usually, these are about losing weight, spending more time with family or cutting back on habits like smoking.

My main resolution is a little different, though. Something I've noticed about myself is that I don't take a lot of time for reflection. Do you? I'm trying to reflect more (hence the purchase of this lovely item, props to Sarah) and that's part of my resolution. Something that I'm prone to do, though, is look back and focus only on the mistakes I've made. I end up kicking myself for the actions I took or the words I said.

There's sometimes a place for regret, especially if those actions or words caused someone else pain or sorrow. But more often than not, I'm judging myself too harshly for not doing what I think would have been the "right" thing to do, based on what I know now. That's the thing, though. My opinion about my former actions is based on hindsight.

With that said, this year's first resolution:

 [Obviously it's not mine; it came from notsalmon.com (via Pinterest).]

Isn't that a great idea? View your life with kindsight

Like I said, I think know I'm too hard on myself when I look back at what I've done. So I'm going to be nicer to myself over the next year. I'm going to reflect on my days (weeks and months, too) with the question of "what was I learning?" instead of "what was I thinking?".

When you look back, are you too harsh on yourself? Would you benefit from a cleansing breath, instead of a forehead slap? Remember to view your life with kindsight!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wordless?

So these are words, but they aren't mine. And it's an image. So, kind of Wordless Wednesday.

Love this:


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

30. Heavy heart.

I had a plan for a blog for today, especially because I haven't really written a good post in a week. But recent events have led to me having a heavy heart and not quite feeling like myself. So for this, the final day of NaBloPoMo, I leave you with a verse I'll be meditating on:

"For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you" - Isaiah 41:13

I don't include a lot of my faith in my blog--not because it isn't important to me, but because I choose to talk about other things. But this blog is about me and my life, and this is what's happening in my life now. So there you go.

Please pray and/or send out your vibes for peace to some friends who are so dear to me that I really do consider them family. Thank you, friends.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

29. The finish line!

It's so close! And once again, I'm down to the wire. I was pretty gung-ho about this early on but have since let this here blog fall down on my list of priorities. Sorry about that, friends!

I've certainly learned a lot, though. I think my writing has improved, on the days where I put a lot of time into blogging. I learned that if I have time, I like to write the night before and let the post "soak" before I post it the following day. I also found an interesting tool for planning blog posts (productiveflourishing.com, anyone?) and I hope to actually put that into action soon.

I also learned that I don't always like people telling me what to write (prompts), but I don't always have words to say. Like tonight. I'm forcing it.

But it's still happening, so I guess that's something. And a good metaphor for work: even if you don't want to do something, force yourself to do it. Maybe it won't be so bad.

One more day to go!

Monday, November 28, 2011

28. Almost!

I can't believe it! I'm almost done with this whole NaBloPoMo business. I'll admit, I'm feeling a little burdened by blogging every day. But more reflection on Day 30.

Right now, I'm still recovering from the weekend. I had so much fun. It amazes me that my niece is 16 months now. She walks way more than she crawls. She speaks so much jibberish, you're certain she's carrying on a conversation with you. She says real words. She communicates what she wants through simple points & grunts. She understands what you say when you talk to her. She feeds her baby dolls, wipes their bottoms and burps them. For all of these reasons, she's a toddler now. Not a baby!



The best reason? She's such a ham. This little girl knows what makes her audience laugh and when to milk it! She makes adults melt. All of them. She's so wonderful. She claps and squints and makes giggly noise something akin to "hee hee" but with a bit more "ng" at the end. "Heeng," maybe? And her faces. So expressive!



 I had the amazing privilege of seeing her first steps in North Carolina in October, and on this trip to Greensburg I had the chance to ride the Christmas train with her! She loved it.



Yes, Aunt Maggie bought her a Steelers jersey. :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

27. Back in the 'Burgh.

I'm back in the 'Burgh. It was wonderful to see family, but I'm ready to be here again.

The Stillers are on and we just fumbled, so I'm not going to write much. I'm fuming. If I did stream-of-consciousness Sunday today, I'd have to edit it. A lot.

Point of excitement: I get to listen to Christmas music now!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

26. Navidad, numero uno.

We just celebrated Christmas with my sister, brother-in-law and niece. I'm still processing this weekend and thinking about all of the things I experienced with them, what I appreciate about each of them and the things I miss about them when they're gone.

Sorry that once again I'm cutting this short, but we're going to watch Crazy Stupid Love and craft. Well...my brother-in-law will just watch. But sissy and I will craft. Felt roses, ribbon roses, knitted socks. It's what the Graham girls are all about.

Friday, November 25, 2011

25. Down to the wire.

Just minutes left! I bought a camera today. I got up at 4:20 a.m., went shopping for five hours and came home with sulfate-free shampoo from Target.

Now, I'm enjoying time with my family.

Don't forget to participate in Small Business Saturday!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

24. Thank you!

Today, dear reader, I am thankful for you!

Thanks for sticking with me over the past 15 months. Even though I had a 5-month hiatus, and sometimes didn't write for months, you're still reading! Thank you, friend.

Thanks for starting to read this blog over NaBloPoMo. I'm going 24 days strong and I'm quite proud of that. It's because you're still reading that I keep writing. Thank you, friend.

Fellow bloggers, fellow PULSErs, fellow Pittsburghers: you're all amazing. Thanks for everything you do for me!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

23. Today's the day!

My family is in from North Carolina! Sister, brother-in-law, and niece. Look at her sweet profile!


(She was a monkey for Halloween.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

22. Lucky?

I'm feeling at a loss for words today, so I'm going to write from the prompt. What's the luckiest thing that's ever happened to me, and why?

This is hard! Maybe if I wasn't feeling such a loss for words, I could come up with something. I guess in general, though, I think the luckiest thing to happen to me was to join PULSE.

That single decision, to move to the city of Pittsburgh, brought me:

-seven amazing women to share in community for a year
-a job at an amazing organization
-a love of place (Pittsburgh, I love you. Not a secret.)
-a supportive community of PULSE alumni, staff and friends
-service opportunities and ways to get involved in my neighborhood
-friends who do amazing things, like a pre-Thanksgiving stuffing & pie bake off
-a chance to further explore my passions

And about a million other things. But really, I can't tell you enough how much PULSE has meant to me.

If you want to support PULSE and our mission to cultivate a community of service leaders to transform Pittsburgh, join us at our holiday shopping night at Ten Thousand Villages in Squirrel Hill. Support PULSE, support fair trade artisans, support Pittsburgh's economy! Three great things in one.

Monday, November 21, 2011

21. Motivate me!

Alright, Pittsburgh. It's raining right now. Today's work plan includes taking care of trees in East Liberty's commercial core. In the rain. I am feeling ultra-miserable about this right now, and I need a bit of motivation to get through it.

Something to remember today, then:


I'm going to remain positive about this afternoon. Taking care of the trees in our commercial core is super important for the vitality of the entire neighborhood. Commence positive thinking--it might change the world!

What are you less than excited about today? Think positive.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

20. Stream of Consciousness.

Today, I'm trying out Stream of Consciousness Sunday. I'm going to try my best to keep this unedited, not checking for spelling or grammar. Writing for five minutes straight, whatever pops into my head. Ready, go.

I can't belive I'm going to a baby shower today. How did I get old enough to be going to a BABY shower? I feel like I just was a baby and now here I am, having friends with kids. And I'm still living as a volunteer. These people are buying houses and cars and I still drive the car my parents gave me when they got a new one. Is that so wrong? I"m kind of mad at that car right now anyways. Specifically I'm mad at whoever hit Latoya. It's nothing too noticeable just a scratch on the front of the driver's side by the lights but still. And now I'll never know who did it. Latoya is my car by the way, I dont't hink people know that about me. But my TOyota is named Latoya. It's always been that way, since I was 11 and it was my parents car. My aparents have a nice Hyundai now, I wish I drove that. Though it rides differently than my car. Or what I call my car but it really isn't. Oh I have to pay for a bridesmaids dress. Kari's wedding is in May and we have to order the dresses ASAP. I don't even know what size I'll be in the dress boo. It's purple htough, that's pretty. I'm excited for their wedding. I'm excited for this baby shower too. Are you supposed to wear blue for a boy baby shower? I"m wearing pink and purple. Because I just like that dress much more than I like my blue dresses.Today, at least. I've made a lot of mistakes in this I hope no one judges me. Someone once asked if I was judging him based on his grammar because I like to fix it. Truth is, yes, I do judge you a bit when you use poor grammar. Because it's just not right. You/your/your and to/too/two and there/they're/their oh my gosh it's too much for me to handle when people get those wrong. And "good" does not mean "well" so wehn you say you're doing good, you better mean that you're out there serving meals or helping someone in need. Because that's what doing good is. There's that old cliche for graduation speeches. "Go out in the world and do good. Yes, do well. But most importantly, do good." I like that. It checks grammar.


Whew. I made mistakes! Sometimes I backspaced, but I tried really hard not to. This was kind of fun but I had to coax myself to not think in terms of forming a blog post, and just to write. Interesting.

ALSO. I only have ten days of #NaBloPoMo until it's all over. Are you excited? I'm kind of excited.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

19. Saturday!

Happy weekend, everyone! I'm going to a stuffing/pie bake off tonight. Isn't that fun? Love my friends.

Also love this mashup. Naya Rivera? Powerhouse.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 18, 2011

18. Pinny.

Not much time for writing today, but I'm going to gush for a few moments here. Allow me.

I love Pinterest. I love it so much that it has taken the #3 spot on my Chrome list of most-visited links. I love it! I know most of you are probably already on, but if you aren't--drop me a line with your email and I'll invite you (or you can request an invite, but I heard that takes longer).

Pinterest allows me the opportunity to gather up all of the things that I think are cool in one visual place, instead of folders full of links to recipes/patterns I can't see. It's just fun to look at!

I obviously like every board I have, but some of my favorites are:


My crafty board
Some highlights:
--these vases
--t-shirt puff necklace
--modge podge crafts!
--homemade cake stands









My home board
Some highlights:
--this easy-peasy spray painted canvas
--wallpaper on top of a coffee table
--pearl strand chandelier
--cheap roller blinds






My random board

Some highlights:
--grammatically correct = hot
--a Hall and Oates costume
--wedding dresses (for some day)
--"hussy" and "floozy" tea cups



So there you have it! Pinterest. Follow me!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

17. Between.

I'm not super keen on today's prompt (something about listing every crush you've ever had; seems unnecessary to me) so, I'm going back to an October prompt. October 20, to be exact. What do I like to do between coming home and going to bed?

I'm currently in a great place where I don't have to worry about school work when I come home, but I also don't have to worry about kids or taking care of other people. Just me. And making food for my roommates when I have time/they're around. But other than that, no responsibilities.

I always have a ton of things that I want to do or need to do in between, but an ideal night would look like this:

-come home
-check personal email, respond
-peruse my Google reader
-start some deliciously nutritious dinner
-eat said dinner with roommates, preferably while watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune
-knit while watching a movie/whatever TV shows we like that air on that day
-at 10 p.m., go to my room and write a blog post (or do some research for another one)
-finish that miraculously by 10:30 so I can read
-go to bed

(A variation of this would include having my PULSErs over for dinner and TV watching/knitting)

Homebody at heart. What's your ideal night between work and bed look like?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

16. No words.

I've covered today's prompt a few times before (see here, here and here). The prompt acts for a specific moment that one leaves childhood and enters adulthood. Do you think that exists? I don't.

Instead, let's focus on someone who left babyhood for toddlerhood. My beautiful 16-month old niece Anna.


Those teeth (and those sprinkles on her chin)! No words for this little toddler.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

15. Favorites.

Today, I'm recruiting for PULSE on Waynesburg University's campus. I'm so excited to go back with my good friend and current PULSEr Sarah to talk to current students about our experiences thus far with the program.

Waynesburg, smallest town I've ever lived in, is one of my favorite places. I've lived in teeny tiny city/big small town Greensburg, huge city London and small city/giant town Pittsburgh and enjoyed each of them. for different reasons. While I'm discovering that I'm truly a city girl at heart, this little town has a special place in it.

Why do I love Waynesburg? The ridiculous one-way streets? The complete lack of parking. The crazy squirrels? The getting older and in need of some love buildings? The somewhat apathetic student body?

Yes. (Except for that last bit, I tried not to interact with that last bit too often.)

But it's also the football games. And nights spent on the front porch of the house I shared with my friends senior year. And feeling a genuine sense of community for the first time. And wasting time in the caf with a friend instead of going to class. And going to class. And walking across the lawn in front of Miller Hall on my first day on campus to be welcomed into the WU (or, at the time, WC) family. And walking across the lawn in front of Miller Hall on my last day of campus, to receive my diploma.

So, one of this city girl's favorite places is a coal mining town with a population of less than 5,000. Surprise! What's one of your favorite places?

Monday, November 14, 2011

14. Motivation Mondays.

Good morning! It's Monday. Mondays are usually everyone's least favorite day of the week. Because we just had a weekend and we feel like we wasted it, or because we have five long days ahead of us until the next exciting weekend.

I don't like Mondays very much, either. Especially a Monday like it is today in Pittsburgh: rainy, dreary. It's actually warm, which is nice, but it's still raining. It's supposed to rain for the next 3 days. Not the best weather for cheering you up out of a little funk.

So, I say we take back Mondays. Make them work for you instead of against you! Put your mind to working hard all day, and it will fly by. And then we'll only be four days from the weekend!


Case of the Mondays no more. It's a good day to have a good day!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

13. Whoops!

I nearly forgot to post today. All I have to say is that I'm quite excited about this week: a visit to Waynesburg on Tuesday, Thanksgiving meal with PULSErs on Wednesday and Kelley's baby shower on Sunday.

Writing this week is going to be tough. Let's see if I can handle it!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

12. Singin' Saturdays.

New series! Music I love, every Saturday. I hope.

This week-Fitz and the Tantrums. I've seen them twice this year, and they were excellent both times.



Who are you listening to this Saturday?

Friday, November 11, 2011

11. I wish.

Today's prompt (make 3 wishes for 11/11/11!) is so perfect. Mainly because I've been listening to the Into the Woods soundtrack lately, and the show is based around wishes.

The show closes Act I with a song called "Ever After" which includes these lyrics:

Though it's fearful
Though it's deep, though it's dark
And though you may lose the path
Though you may encounter wolves
You mustn't stop, you mustn't swerve
You mustn't ponder, you have to act
(In the show, it turns out that what the characters wished for had dire consequences. Ignore that.)

What inspirational words! Going after what you wish is scary. But you mustn't stop, you mustn't swerve! Even if it's dark, and you may lose the path, and you may encounter wolves. You mustn't ponder. You have to act!

Last night, Propelle hosted a Networking Happy Hour at AVA. It was SO inspiring to be in a room with 40-50 women who were all interested in sharing their passions and connecting. I have so many passions (as evidenced here) that it's hard to know what I want to do sometimes. But being in a room filled with so many passionate, kind, effervescent women was so energizing and convinced me that no matter what, if I pursue my dreams, it will be okay. I can't gush enough about the night. Just phenomenal.

Anyway, back to those three wishes! Maybe wishes are supposed to be things you can't achieve on your own but I'm feeling very goal-oriented and so, I'm going to list three attainable wishes.

1. Complete my first ever knitted, adult-sized blanket. I've been working on it on and off for a year, but I keep getting distracted. So I've got to sit down (a lot) and just do it! Knit my heart out. That is, of course, after Christmas and baby showers are out of the way. ;)

2. Join a choir or find an outlet for my musical side. It's not something from which I'll ever make any money, but that's not why I like singing. Any choir recommendations for an alto?

3. Have a signature thing. Whether that's always wearing scarves, or having a "color," or sporting some awesome rings...I want to have a thing that people always expect me to do or have or wear. Because it just seems fun.

And just for good measure, three things I wish for that are less easily attainable:
- The chance to go back to Europe.
- Cutting out all of the states that sit between PA and NC (expressed here).
- An iPad 2. Not easily attainable on a volunteer's salary, thankyouverymuch.

What are your three wishes?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

10. Passion.

First things first, I've written for ten days in a row. This is monumental.

Moving on. I really, really like today's prompt. Except there are too many options. My secret or not-so-secret passions? There are plenty. Brief paragraphs on five of them:

Knitting
My sister and I taught ourselves how to knit one Christmas Eve, and I've never looked back. I make knitted Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, random I-love-you gifts. I've made hats, blankets, scarves, sweaters, coasters...even a cell phone cover. My friends Joel and Anna decided that, should they get married and have children, I will be the godmother of all babies. Why, you ask? In the words of Joel: "HAND KNITTED SWEATERS. SCORE!" So there you have it. Make me godmother of your children so they can have handknitted sweaters, people.

Food
Food is delicious and I love it. More importantly, I love making food. Cooking or baking, it's all wonderful. I am learning more about what spices go with which herbs and flavors and how to do more than just sauté some vegetables. Learning more like that, that makes me excited. Then when I get to share it with others, that makes me even happier.

Music
I know. Lots of people like music and it's really cool and oh my gosh fun. But I don't just listen to music. I mean, I don't write it. Which is kind of a shame because I love it. Anyway, I've always sung. And I've played the flute since I was...9? 8? However old you are when you start 4th grade, that's how long I've played. Then I did musicals and show choir in high school. In college, I was a leader for the praise band. Music has always been how I release emotion. I may be a writer but I'm not so good at saying what I feel, so I use songs. Maybe #nablopomo will help!?

Social Media
I don't care what you say, social media is a legitimate source of news. Things spread like wildfire on there. Unfortunately, that can mean that a whole lot of ugly spreads very quickly. But it can also mean that exciting news--like Beyonce's pregnancy announcement, which broke all kinds of Twitter records--spreads quickly, too. Since moving to Pittsburgh, I've been very lucky to be in some great communities. I count Twitter as one of them, highlighted by the experience of PodCamp 6 and meeting all of these wonderful people who like the same stuff I do. And uh, social media is kinda my bread & butter. So there's that, too.

Pittsburgh
C'mon, you had to know this was coming. I've written love notes to Pittsburgh here, here, here and here. If you're a frequent reader (if you are, kudos to you for making it 15 months with me), you know that my heart beats for this city, and that I want to dedicate my professional life to it. I certainly don't want to count any chickens before they've hatched or put the horse before the cart or whatever, but I really don't see myself leaving this city. I want to be here forever. And some day, my husband will act like this:



I love it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

9. Off the path.

I'm going off-prompt today, and participating in Wordless Wednesday.


Isn't she a beauty? One of my Guatemalan niños.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

8. Trauma.

Today's prompt asks about traumatic experiences. Reverting to my old journalistic technique of defining a word in the lede (I was quite the creative little high school/college journalist, huh? ;), traumatic is defined as:
  1. A serious injury or shock to the body, as from violence or an accident.
  2. An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person, often leading to neurosis.
  3. An event or situation that causes great distress and disruption.
Luckily, option one doesn't apply to me. Other than breaking my arm and getting kicked in the eye during a rousing game of tug-of-war (seriously), I've never really experienced any terrible injuries. And as far as three goes, I can blow things out of proportion so sometimes I'm sure events cause more distress than they need to. But they're not huge problems.

Which leaves us at number two. Now, I haven't had an emotional wound or shock that has lead to neurosis or caused damage to my psychological development, but I have had an emotional "wound," one that I still carry. Time to get all personal up in here.

I grew up for most of my life only knowing one grandparent. My mom's father passed away when she was in college and my dad's parents both passed away when I was a little, little girl. I try to remember things about my Grandma Graham as much as possible, and I like to think that I get my affinity for cooking and baking from her. Yarn work, too. 

Anyway, I grew up only knowing my mom's mom, whom we called Nana. When I was young, Nana moved from New Jersey (where my mom grew up) to Tampa, Florida. She came up to visit us at least twice/year, in August/September and at Christmas. My sister and I each visited her alone some summers, and my whole family drove down once when I was a tween.

Some of my favorite memories are laying on my bedroom floor, when Nana was in my bed, and she'd let me stay up late reading--because she was reading, too. Nana loved reading. She would also spoil me when I came to visit (read a bit about it here), but made me work, too. One time, I vacuumed her condo and she took me to see The Parent Trap with Lindsay Lohan. Now, Lindsay Lohan is in jail. Times have changed.

Anyway. Nana was an amazing, inspiring woman. She was a hard worker, volunteered at her local library and was an elder (or deacon?) at her church, St. Mark's. She raised two children, lost her husband too early and remained strong. She traveled the world.

Nana was the inspiration behind me applying for the Vira Heinz Scholarship my sophomore year of college. I remember getting calls from Nana when I was little when she was in Italy, or France, and wanted to say hi. I always dreamed that I'd go with her some day. Nana's health began to decline and she moved to Greensburg so that we could all be closer. That's when I knew that instead of going with Nana, I'd have to go for her. I got the scholarship to study in London, and couldn't wait to ask Nana where I should go, what I should see, etc.

Nana's health declined even more throughout the remainder of my sophomore year. On the day I moved home for the summer (about 6 weeks before going to Europe), Nana passed away. I will never forget exactly where I was, and what I was doing when I got the call from mom. I will never forget the way my friends held me and let me sob, in the stairwell of the dorm, for what seemed like hours. Those same friends packed up my belongings for me and loaded my dad's truck for the move home. What kind, compassionate, giving friends I have.

I considered declining the scholarship and staying home for the summer, because it was just too much. Nana had been such an important figure in my life, and her absence left me unsure about so many things. So many regrets about things I should have done, or said. 

I'm so thankful now that I did not decline the scholarship and instead went forward with going to Europe. I thought about Nana a lot on that trip, and I still think about her now. It's been three and a half years, almost to the day, and she's still my inspiration. Maybe it's not a wound or a scar, but losing Nana is one of the most traumatic things I've ever experienced.

If you read through this whole post, thank you. Thanks for sharing in the memory of Nana and letting me be the most personal I have ever been on this blog. I cried, and I think that was a good thing. Love you, Nana.

Monday, November 7, 2011

7. Balance.

I don't have a boyfriend/fiance/husband and I don't have any kids, but I still have plenty to say about today's prompt. "How do you find balance with your kids, relationship and work life?"

Balance is hard. I know, I know, some day I'll look back on this period of my life and think "I had so much free time, and I wasted it." Whatever. I'm living in the moment and in the moment, my life is busy. And--good news--it just got busier!

I am SO excited to say that I have joined the Propelle flight crew, co-piloted by Carrie, Emily and Kate. Three inspiring women who started a new venture, focused on helping women entrepreneurs take flight. I feel honored just knowing them, let alone being on the crew. I'll be your social media manager, directing you to information and tips for ladies who women entrepreneurs. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter!

I'm sure more than one of you is wondering how I have time to take on another role when I already have one other full-time position, and two part-time ones (let alone friends and responsibilities to my housemates!). You think I sound like a crazy person. You're at least half right. I'm a little insane, but like I said at the beginning of this post: I don't have anything holding me back from taking on this position and the chance to meet and be molded by tons of inspiring women who are already connecting with Propelle (not to mention the three co-pilots, who have been incredibly gracious and kind to me already). Gotta take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. In the words of my friend Erica, a yinzster's gotta hustle.

So even though I'm a nut job, I still like to make time for things in my life aside from work. How do I do it? First, I love what I do. Then it doesn't seem like work so much. It should still feel like work, because otherwise you're not growing. But, it helps if the work is challenging, but not soul-crushing.

I also schedule time for myself on my calendar. I try to say "yes" as much as possible to friends' invitations. But at the same time, I listen to my body. If I am exhausted at 9:30 on a Saturday night, maybe it's best that I stay in and watch movies on the couch (why yes, that did happen this weekend).

Living with other people is sometimes so challenging, but it's also super rewarding. If I have a particularly tough day at work and don't feel like seeing other humans, I know that my roommates will both respect my privacy and pull me out of my funk. All while I get to relax in my PJs.

How do you find balance?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

6. Distracted.

I'm going to attempt to post, using a prompt from October, but we'll see what happens. The Stillers are currently playing the Rat-birds so we'll see if I can form coherent sentences. My apologies up front if this doesn't flow.

Friday, October 14. Which was the best year of your life (so far)?


2011. Best year of my life so far, and it's not over yet. I'm in a place I love, surrounded by the people I love, doing work that I love. Learning about myself, my priorities, my strengths. Being in my 20s and (mostly) not being ashamed about it. Making new friends, new contacts, new discoveries.

2011, you've been great.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

5. Why I love the East End, v. 1

Unblurred on Penn Avenue. Art galleries, friends all over the place, interactive installations. What isn't there to love?


Friday, November 4, 2011

4. Pen.

Pen vs. computer: the age-old battle. Well, at least the battle from 2000-present.

This might surprise you, but I much prefer the pen to the computer. Yes, I use a computer at least 3 times more than I use a pen. Yes, most of my job(s) revolve around typing things as opposed to hand-writing them. But sometimes, there's nothing more satisfying than putting pen to paper.

This sounds crazy, but go with me on this. Things on the computer just seem less real. I guess because the document I'm creating can't be held in my hands, it's not physically tangible and therefore becomes kind of intellectually intangible too. Like what I'm doing here doesn't exist. Which is a crazy thing to say for someone whose bread and butter is the digital realm. But that's what I feel.

What about you? Do you prefer pen, or computer? And, just to stir things up: pen or pencil? Mac or PC? The debate here could be endless...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

3. Tunes.

I love music. I have since I was a little girl. I've always been that girl who is singing--in the office, in the shower (even in the freshman dorms), humming along to her iPod while walking down Penn Ave. That's me.

So I'm really excited that today's topic is music. Today as I was walking back to the office, a song came on my iPod that I haven't heard for awhile. Remember this?




I love this song, for so many reasons. First, even though it wasn't intended for the movie, it reminds me of The Devil Wears Prada. Like the book, like the movie, like the song. Done.

But more importantly, this is a girl power song. According to Wikipedia (clearly the legitimate source for everything), the song describes KT Tunstall's realization that she wanted to be a musician: by looking at Patti Smith.

Okay so looking at a photograph of Patti Smith doesn't inspire me (it's okay if it inspires you; I won't judge!). But this song totally does! I kind of imagine the song to be about realizing that "this" is me.

Suddenly I see...this is what I want to be.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2. Nutella. Ella. Ella.

Ey. Ey. Ey.

Nutella is the food of the gods. Of this I am nearly certain. And I'm only nearly certain because I don't know if these mythical gods (not God--I personally make a distinction) we speak of actually eat. But if they do, I'm sure they sustain themselves on Nutella.

But alas, I am not a mythical semi-powerful being. Therefore, I need more than Nutella to keep my body going.

Sad, I know. But it's okay--I like to eat other things, too. My ultimate last meal is probably pretty ridiculous and should I someday become a fancy-dancy food critic (pshhhh), my credibility will be washed away when some sneaky journalist Googles me, finds this post and shares it with the world. Because in fantasies like these (where I'm a fancy-dancy food critic, or a spy, or a schoolteacher) there's always someone trying to bring you down. Just like the movies.

I digress. My ultimate last meal. First thing's first, it's gotta have asparagus. And corn. Because YUM. Actually, roasted asparagus and potatoes. With rosemary, basil and thyme. And then corn on the side. Maybe that could be grilled and shucked off the husk. I'll leave that to you because, well, if this is my last meal then by golly someone else is cooking it for me. Might as well be you.

But I need some kind of protein. And more starches. Carbs don't matter if it's your last meal. As far as protein goes, I'm torn between hot dogs and a pulled pork sandwich. Seriously, I love hot dogs. As a kid, we'd go to Hoss's and I'd get a hot dog every. single. time. Even though mom made them for me at home, too. I loved them. I still love them, but now I get ones that are either turkey or the all-beef ones. Nathan's, specifically. Yum. As for the pulled pork. I can't explain it, but I love it.

Where was I? Oh, right. Starches. Carbs yummy yummy. I love rice. I remember my Nana making me rice for breakfast when I was 11 or 12 and I was staying with her in Florida. Gosh, I haven't thought about that for a long time. She spoiled me. She let me eat breakfast in her recliner in front of the TV that day. It was great. Minute rice with butter and salt. Yeah, I'd want that. But because I've grown up a little bit more, I'd like it to at least be jasmine rice. A little healthier than the Minute variety.

I may not be a mythical being but I love Nutella a lot, so it would definitely be the cherry on the top of this meal. Specifically, these Nutella Chocolate Chip cookies I made last night. Pretty good, if I do say so myself. And by "pretty good" I mean "oh my gosh it tastes like heaven." And for good measure, I'd probably just put a big ol' heaping spoonful of Nutella on top of the cookie.

So there you have it. Roasted asparagus and potatoes, grilled corn, hot dogs/pulled pork, white rice and Nutella cookies. I'm currently reading Julia Child's "My Life in France" and am 99% sure she's looking down on me with shame. My apologies, Julia.

[Just a reminder, I'm participating in NaBloPoMo for November. Are you?]

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

1. Writing.

So here I am. Blogging all month long. First prompt: "What is your favorite part about writing?"

Writing is funny. It is easily my favorite, and least favorite thing to do. I spoke to 1st and 2nd graders at a career fair (I KNOW RIGHT) a few weeks ago and told them that my love of writing is what got me into public relations, and eventually into my current position. Most of what I do is writing. Most of what I do, I like.

Writing is great because it's kind of like putting together a puzzle. You have all of these thoughts and ideas and (sometimes) quotes and then you pull them all together and when it works, it works. It flows and paints a picture or conveys your ideas or convinces without being too overbearing.

But that puzzle aspect is also what makes writing not so great. No shoving in things that you just. want. to. make. work. Even if you try to hide it really well, someone's still going to notice that something about the puzzle just isn't right. That works for writing, too. So it takes me an extra-long time to write things, because I hate when they're off. Even by a little bit.

I guess what I'm saying is, writing is a fickle fickle mistress (mister?). I love him and I hate him, and that's my favorite part about him.

(Favorite part about writing this post, though? The wikipedia entry for "mistress" which produced this gem: "The 'Pool Boy' is the most general male role of a 'male mistress,' or at times the 'Fitness Trainer' or 'Tennis Instructor.' Some people may even refer to this as a 'mastress.'" LOL)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Truth.

The other day, my roommate Juliana and I were in our kitchen. I was telling her about my morning, which I'd spent outside in the rain/snow mix taking pictures for work (we had volunteers to helps us with rain garden installations--such great people!). I had connected with one of the volunteers before, and he's my friend Whitney's supervisor. We started talking, and I was really energized by our interaction. I was relaying our conversation back to Juliana (I promise, it was relevant) and her response was great:


"Wow. The city's so small for you, isn't it?"

Yes. It totally is. Reason #28,734 why I love Pittsburgh. What are some of your reasons for loving our fair city?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

City Envy

Well, looks like I'm on a one-post-per-month streak. I'm going to change all of that by signing up for National Blog Posting Month (affectionately known as NaBloPoMo) in November...think of today as a warm-up. And what better warmup than to talk about my favorite subject: the City of Pittsburgh?

Last year, I had the incredible opportunity to become a participant/fellow in the Pittsburgh urban Leadership Service Experience (PULSE). My fellow PULSErs were all pretty new to the city. They'd been here once or twice, but they didn't grow up an hour away like I did. It was during the first few week sof PULSE in the Fall of 2010 that I realized: the longest I've been away from Western Pennsylvania is six weeks.

Just six weeks! That's not even two months. And while coming to PULSE last August was my first time actually living in Pittsburgh, I had an idea of what I was getting into. I didn't have to learn a whole new culture or wrap my head around this whole neighborhood idea. It just it what it is: a city.

But the more I spoke to the other PULSErs I thought that maybe I was missing out. Because I've only left the area once (the same time I left the country), I really have no idea what it's like to try to experience a new city. To learn about the culture, or the history, or to just feel that nervous excitement you get from being in a new place (believe me, I was still plenty nervous--moving into a house with 7 other women I didn't know? You bet I was nervy. It was just different).

To be honest (and that's what I'm shooting for here lately), I was a little envious. To be completely honest, I always feel a twinge of jealousy when I hear about classmates or friends who move to new cities. New York, San Fran, Philly, Boston...etc. Even new small towns. It's a whole new adventure! I just moved to Pittsburgh.

But then, I think about it and realize that this IS a whole new adventure. Sure, it's only 60 minutes from my parents house. An hour from where I went to undergrad. But still, it's new! I'm still learning new things every day. So maybe I know the yinzer culture, but I don't know everything about this city.

Plus, if I didn't live here, I'd be jealous of everyone that did:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sometimes, I get bitter.

Dear readers,

For those of you keeping score (and I know you at home are), I've been to 7 weddings this year. SEVEN. I have one more coming up in October. And I was invited to one that I couldn't attend, bringing this year's grand total to nine invites and eight actual weddings

That, my friends, is a lot of weddings.

(Here's where I become a bit vulnerable and bitter so if you don't want to read about that, feel free to continue to the bottom of this post. I'll leave something warm and fuzzy for you down there.)

It's ROUGH going to that many weddings. Let me rephrase. It's ROUGH going to that many weddings when you're single. Let me rephrase one more time. It's ROUGH going to that many weddings when you're single and it feels like everyone else is not. It's like at weddings, all the married people come out of the woodwork or something. Married people have this sensor where they know someone else is joining their elite, special group and so they show up. To make it very obvious that they are married. And you are not.

(See? Bitter and vulnerable. Two things I don't like being. Whatever. This blog is for growth and stuff.)

But then I have to remember that these two people I love are taking the biggest step of their lives thus far. And they wanted to include me in their day. Whether the guest list had 150 or 450, I made the cut! What an honor to witness two people who love each other very much, making a public declaration of that love in front of others.

I got to see that this weekend with my dear friends Aaron and Andrea. I'm obviously somewhat of a wedding connoisseur and I have to say, this was one of my favorites. The dress, the boutonnieres, the flowers, the location--I could gush on and on. It was absolutely beautiful, outdoors next to a stream just outside of Harrisonburg, Virginia. A-squared (cute name, yes?) made their family an integral part of the service, and that just reflected them so much. And they had a barn dance reception! Not that I'm a well-known barn dancer (in fact, I never got up on the dance floor), but it was quite entertaining.

If you have invited me to your wedding, please know that I loved being there! Sometimes, I get bitter. But most (95%) times, I'm thankful, honored, blessed and a million other positive adjectives to be a part of your wedding day. They've each been beautiful, and I'ved boogie-ing the night away with each of you to celebrate your marriage. I've REALLY loved that part. The Cha Cha slide is my specialty.

That being said, I can't wait until November. Six months wedding free! Of course, I'll be ordering a bridesmaid dress and planning a bridal shower and all of those fun things. What good is wedding season if you can't be in a least one bridal party?

Oh--as promised, your warm and fuzzy:


Friday, July 29, 2011

Eleven months later.

At my office, I have a plant on my windowsill.


This plant is unnamed. We jokingly refer to it around the office (okay, three of us do) as "Collaboration", because I got it at collaboration-themed luncheon for a different agency.

This plant and I have been through a lot together. I got it at the beginning of the year, maybe 2 months in to my time with PULSE/ELDI. It has been on my windowsill ever since. 

Today at work I was gchatting with Anna (shh...don't tell anyone) and I looked to my left to the plant. She grew! Over the past 9 months, she grew. That ivy is way bigger than it was at the beginning of my journey at ELDI.

Of course, Anna and I were at that exact moment discussing how we can't believe that PULSE is "over". We have lived in our big old home and worked at our placements for 11 months. We were also talking about how much we've grown over the past year.

Way to go, Plant, for being an incredibly tangible metaphor and example of what has happened to me over the past year.

I am really in disbelief that the year is already over. This is such a cliche, but really, it feels like I blinked and the year is gone. Looking back, I can tell that a lot has happened. But in the day to day, the time just goes quicker than I ever imagined.

I'm so thankful for this year. Just the other day, I tweeted that I can't believe that I'm trusted to do my job sometimes. Just because it feels like I'm way unqualified and too young to be doing this for real. If anything, this year has taught me that I am definitely qualified. I can do this whole "I am a grownup and have a real job thing." And it happened while I wasn't even looking.

But instead of having a "real job", I'm going to continue in PULSE. I don't think I've really talked about this here yet, so here it goes: I'm going to keep my position at ELDI and continue to be a part of the PULSE program. In my second year (blazing new trails), I'll be doing lots of informational interviews and I'll lead a couple of seminars. I also get to help with PULSE's social media efforts. 

I truly believe this is what I have been called to do with the next year of my life. Living, working and growing in the East End of Gotham City...I mean, Pittsburgh.

(Because the Bat Signal on Fifth Avenue Place is too cool not to mention in this post. Obviously.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Humble.

Growing up is hard, man.

I know practically every 20-something says this, but why don't they give you a manual when you graduate from college? Really, a small guide (20 pages or so, with pictures) with tips and instructions on important grown-up knowledge would be awesome. Because I don't know how to do this.

I'm expected to be responsible for my own well-being. To go to the doctor and the dentist and the optometrist on a (semi-, insurance-dictated) regular basis. How much should I pay for health insurance? Do I need renters' insurance?

I'm expected to know things like, how much am I "worth" to an organization? And what's an appropriate amount to pay for rent in my neck of the woods?

Being grown up and living on your own (because let's face it, PULSE isn't really living on your own at all) means that you have a lot to do. How do you put in a security deposit? How do you set up your utilities? Budget, or pay by the month? Where do you get all the furniture to sit on and sleep on?

Recently, a lot of these questions have come up. And I realized that I have absolutely no idea about how to answer any of them on my own. I've had to learn a little lesson in humility.

I'm usually the type who likes to have all the answers. I don't think I'm necessarily arrogant about my knowledge, but I don't like to admit when I don't know something. But this grown-up stuff is serious. I can't just fudge my way through getting utilities, because then I'll end up stealing electric from the neighbors with an extension card, and fry myself a la Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation. Then, since I made up the insurance process as I went along, I wouldn't even have medical coverage to nurse me back to health.

So you see my predicament. Either make a go of it on my own and probably screw up royally, or ask for help. So, I've asked for help. A lot more often than not, lately. It's kind of hard to do sometimes, but it's also an immense relief and blessing to have someone else tell me the answers to all of life's big questions (like, how much water will we use in one month?).

I'm going to get started on that life guide for college graduates. Any tips to include? ;)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Geography.

Still coming down from my post-vacation high/low. That point where you really miss vacation and the relaxation it brought, but you are also glad to be back to your space and routine, reminiscing about the wonderful time you had in [fill in the blank].

So, here are some random bits.

1. Google+
Do we like, or do we not like? Warning--lazy snobbery about to commence. I feel like I have built a relatively extensive network on Facebook and Twitter, both of which took a while to build. Even if it wasn't that hard, it still took awhile.

Right now, I have about 10 (maybe?) people that have been added into my "circles". I don't really know if I feel like putting in the time to find more people; maybe Google+ will be more passive for me (at least at first?). One thing that I do appreciate so far, however, is that I don't have to share everything with everyone. I can select circles with which I'll share different information.

So, add me on Google+? I go by my full first name.

2. Airports
Because a 9+ hour car ride isn't my idea of a good time, I flew to Raleigh, NC to visit my sister, brother-in-law and niece (now 1 year old!!!!!) for 9 days of relaxing, family time, babysitting, and birthday parties.

It was splendid. Relaxing but not, and isn't that always vacation? I'm glad I went. The return home is always hard--I hate, HATE leaving that baby and my sis and BIL--and this time was worse as we were delayed for an hour.

But when I landed in Pittsburgh and stepped off the plane, I smelled it. Home. The Pittsburgh International Airport has a distinct smell for me and while I can't put my finger on just what it is, I know that it smells like home. Pittsburgh, I love you.

But let's talk about this for a second. Pittsburgh, PA is about an 9 hour car ride (including stops) from the Raleigh suburbs where my family lives. NINE hours. That's a lot of driving, or conversely a lot of waiting at the airport for a quick flight on one of those dinky little "feel every bump" planes.

I propose that we cut out all the stuff between the two and make Pittsburgh and Raleigh about 30 minutes from each other.

Ready....go!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Can't get enough Pictory

This is just too amazing not to share--especially numbers 1 and 13 (for me).

Secrets of Inspiring Women - Celebrating Pictory's first anniversary with advice worth repeating. – Pictory

"I may be just another girl chasing challenge and chance in the big city, but my life is important. And I am living it that way."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A few lessons I've learned.

Interns. Coffee-brewers. Copy-makers. These terms are all synonymous, right?

The age-old joke (idea? understanding?) that an intern's sole purpose at an organization is to make copies, brew coffee, and pick up his/her supervisor's dry cleaning is--thankfully--changing.

Just look at the Eternal Interns. These women have spent years interning. Sure, it was due to a tough job market. But they certainly didn't spend their 20s just making copies. It's been a part of their duties, but who of us in an office hasn't made a copy, or brewed up a potta joe, before?

I'm currently halfway through my second "internship". This is definitely not a unique thing; lots of people have multiple internships. But as I embark on the second half of this gig (I'll be a PULSEr for  a total of 23 months), I've realized that I probably have some tips--I won't be so bold as to call them wisdom--to give to interns who are just getting started.

Personal experience has taught (is teaching) me...

  • Don't shy away from helping with a mailing. Stuffing, labeling and sealing are some of the most boring tasks I've ever completed at my internships (and my job during undergrad). But as the labels, letters, and envelopes piled up on my desk this week to mail out our Annual Report (my baby that is finally complete!!!!!), I realized that familiarizing myself with this mailing list was a great idea. Our report went to 170+ partners in the community and throughout the nation--what an easy way to associate a contact name to an organization and a physical location. And every other month when I send newsletters to our funders, I get to know even more names and organizations.
  • Be intentional about building relationships with staff. Unless you're interning at your parents' company, you're most likely pretty new to the company. Everyone has different responsibilities, and one of yours should be to have a general idea of what's happening in the organization. Don't be nebby, but know enough that you can transfer callers to the right extension when you answer the phone (another tip: help out by answering the phone! It usually won't go unnoticed that you stepped up to the plate).
  • Never 'fess up to being an intern. Who needs to know that the point person on the project is an intern? You are just as capable as the full-time staff to do your job, if you've been asked to do it. Even if you mess up, don't using being an intern as a crutch--some day, you won't have the "intern" title to fall back on. Can't blame your mistakes on being the director of your division, can you?
  • Be prepared. This isn't the Boy Scouts and it's not a song from the Lion King (confused?), but it is common sense. Sort of. On your first day, be prepared for a lot of listening, and a lot of learning. Bring paper and pen, because you'll take lots of notes. On your second day and every day after, repeat. You'll learn a lot and you should remember it (something I regrettably haven't done enough of).
  • Leave notes for those who will come after you. Eventually, your time as an intern will end. Hopefully, you'll be on to bigger and better things. And unless that bigger and better thing is your internship but paid, someone will come after you. In each of my internships, I've been blessed enough to have a predecessor that left me tips and tricks, and what to expect out of my experience. My duties have, of course, varied from what the women who came before my outlined. But having those road maps helped. Why not put some other nervous intern at ease on his/her first day?
Internships can be quite a rewarding experience, especially if you're willing to put in the work to make them that way. The interwebz are full of bits & pieces of advice to make the experience better, but hopefully these tips can give you another extra boost of encouragement, or calm some first-day jitters.

Oh, and one more thing? People will really like you if you bake for them. ;)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Because I know you're curious.

Four of my favorite things, all wrapped up in a big ol' bow just for you.

1. Pictory.
As a former photography student in London....okay, well as someone who one time took a 3-week photography class in London, I love photos of the place. Even though I haven't been back for quite some time and haven't kept up with what's happening in the City as much as I'd like, I'm still in love.

So when I discovered Pictory, I was excited--to say the least. The photos aren't necessarily the big landmarks, but little things about London that make it London. (Click there to see the stories)

Aside from London, Pictory has lots of other great stories--each story told as a compilation from many photogs. There's something so cool about a group of people coming together to share their stories, literally from their point of view, that are very different but still, in some ways, the same.

2. Sunday mornings.
I've mentioned this here before, but Sunday mornings are one of my favorite times of the week. I go to church on Sunday evenings, which means that I have all of Sunday to just relax. In the wintertime--don't make fun of me for this--I watched the PBS Create channel and knitted. I even watched the Knit & Crochet show. Please stop laughing at me.

I spent this morning on my parents' couch in Greensburg, reading back issues of Entertainment Weekly in sweatpants and a hoodie. What could be better than that?

3. Searching for an apartment.
Okay so this is sort of untrue. Looking for a place to live kind of sucks.

I find a place, it gets taken. "This place is $50 over budget." "That place is a too far away." "That carpet is ugly." "This place smells like cats." "I don't like the layout." You get the idea.

But it's also kind of exciting. This is the REAL adulthood business I haven't experienced yet. I'm making calls (seriously, still a hurdle I'm overcoming), going on visits and figuring out budgets. "It's $100 over but includes water...think it will work?"

It's overwhelming, and we still don't have a place to live, but it's kind of fun. I'm apartment hunting. Visiting places.

I feel so grown up.

4. Amos Lee.
Supply and Demand....great song, great lyrics.



Four weeks down! Next week's post will be this Saturday morning, because I'll be in North Carolina for my niece's birthday/vacation starting Saturday afternoon. AMEN.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Some time for nostalgia.

Three years ago today, I boarded a plane bound for London, England. Through the Vira I. Heinz Scholarship Program for Women in Global Leadership, I studied Photography and Literature for six weeks at the University of Westminster.

In addition to my studies, I got to visit Paris, Amsterdam, and Bruges. I still can't believe I was there for six weeks. What an amazing blessing!

Big Ben

Iconic...how could I pass that up?

Paris at night, from Montparnasse

Waterloo Park in Highgate Hill. So beautiful.

Thanks for letting me indulge in some wonderful memories. Pittsburgh I love you, I'll never leave you, but someone please take me back to Europe!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

This week's favorite things.

Let's be honest--if I had my way, my favorite things would be the same every week. Pittsburgh, knitting, baking, and a mix of Adele/Sara Bareilles.
But that just can't happen. I have to love more than that. Right? I do. But just always know that I'm fighting back the urge to put "Pittsburgh" as my favorite things.

1. Preschool Gems.
I feel like all of my friends who work with kids have these hilarious stories of what happens to them at work. My office is a pretty lively place and we have a fun time, but the things that come from the mouths of children are just too cute.

That's why I love Preschool Gems. I follow it on Twitter, but you can "like" it on Facebook as well. When I'm having a bad day or just need a little pick-me-up, it makes me giggle. Some of my favorites:
-"I glow in the dark and I am now a bobcat."
-"I'm going to the jungle of bees and dogs with my whole family!"
-"I can't stop thinking about mermaids."

I can't stop thinking about mermaids either, friend.

2. My front porch.


I've tried to spend time on my porch almost every day. It's huge, we have a porch swing, and I like to read. Perfect combination. I'm blogging from the porch right now! Photo courtesy of PhotoBooth.

3. Rhubarb.
Who wouldn't love rhubarb after eating this delicious cake? Via On Food and Baking, a delicious blog by my friend Emily.

(Confession: this photo is from On Food and Baking. My cake didn't look nearly as delicious, and also got eaten before I had a chance to snap a good photo!)

4. Big Hurry.
My friend Kelly (check her out on Yinzpiration!) is an excellent band called Big Hurry. If you don't know about them yet, you should.

Check them out Friday at WYEP's Summer Music Festival at Schenley Plaza. Also playing is last week's favorite, Fitz and the Tantrums. Good, free Friday.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What makes me an adult?

So I guess I'm into question-themed titles. Deal with it. (?)

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what makes me an adult. The world defines adulthood in some tangible and some not-so-tangible ways.

Is it because I pay my own bills? I don't. As a PULSEr, my main life expenses are covered. Is it because I own a house or a car? I don't own either. PULSE provides housing and my parents have graciously provided a vehicle. Is it because I have a "real job"? As much as I am gaining experience at my current position, I'm technically a volunteer. Is it because I'm married with 2.5 children? Well goodness me. I may never be an adult if that's the criteria.

If we're looking at the fact that I can drive, buy cigarettes and lottery tickets, and legally consume alcohol then yes--I am an adult. But I can't rent a car from some places yet, and I can't run for President of the United States of America (but I am just 3 years younger than Luke was when we became Mayor...watch for my campaign ;).

Even though I lack some of these tangible adulthood criterion, I still feel like an adult. (Especially because I just used the word "criterion" in a sentence, and I'm pretty sure I used it correctly.) The problem with these intangible ideas of adulthood is that they're much harder to quantify--and I think they're different for almost everyone.

For example. Today, I called three people whom I'd never met on the phone. Set up appointments, left voicemails, followed up. Maggie two years ago would have emailed and waited. Maggie today made phone calls (even though she was tempted to send emails and wait).

Another reason that I feel like an adult? People trust me with stuff. With money. With finding an apartment. With projects. With decisions. The simple fact that I am trusted to cook dinner for 8+ of my friends once a week still amazes me. Also, people trust me with their children. I took kids canoeing and rock climbing and drove them around in a 15 passenger van and sent them in a tube down a river.

My body now wakes me up at 7 every morning (the past two days of weird sleeping in notwithstanding).   Growing up, I couldn't FATHOM my body setting me on this regular of a schedule. Who would put themselves through the TORTURE of waking up early when they don't have to? Now, I see it as an opportunity to carpe diem and get things done.

I have a Waynesburg University Alumni sticker in the back of my car. I have a college degree and I'm using it. Adults do that kind of stuff, don't they? More importantly, I have found my passion. Some kids know it early on, some adults never find it, but for me--the fact that I know what I want to devote my life to is a pretty big deal.

Aside from these big things, there are the little things: I now take multi-vitamins and calcium supplements, use night cream on my eyes, and can actually "remember when" (for some things, anyway). I also own a mandoline. The slicer. I can slice cucumbers incredibly thin, just like every adult. Right? ;)

I think I'm an adult. I think I like it. What makes YOU an adult?

UPDATE: Another way I'm an adult? I'm growing a backbone! Those of you who have known me for awhile know that I am sort of a pushover. I've realized, though, that I am starting to stand up for myself, and stand up to others. Woot.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What else do I love?

Here it is...my second "Favorite Things" post. Two weeks in a row. I'm already impressed by my dedication.

On with the post:

1. Banana bread.
We at the PULSE house recently bought waaaaay too many almost-ripe bananas, resulting in many a brown banana in our freezer. Solution? Banana bread. Chocolate chocolate chip banana bread, to be exact. I have a classic recipe of my mom's that is usually my go-to, but today I ventured onto the Interwebz and found this gem, with sour cream, from Savory Sweet Life. Didn't alter the main recipe, but did add brown sugar and cinnamon to the top. The bread is delish. Consider yourself informed.


2. Dear Photograph.
A creative new(ish) tumblr with pictures of a picture from the past in the present. Confusing when put succinctly, but really all it is is people taking pictures of themselves, holding up pictures of what used to be in the same spot. So that photo of you walking down the stairs at your parents' house? Go to the same spot where it was taken. Hold the photo so it lines up with the current scene. Take a photo.

3. 'Burghers being 'Burghers.
Monday, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the silent auction table for Pittsburgh Magazine's Best Restaurants party. What a fun time--such good food! I could rant & rave about it forever, but really that's not the point of this favorite thing. 
My coworker and I had some time to eat before we worked the auction table, and we noticed that Notion had these little packets of...crumbs? That's what it looked like, anyway. Later while working the auction table, I saw someone with the packet. So I asked him what was in it. What did he do? Told me to stick out my hand, and shook the crumbs (actually little bits of popcorn) into my hand. Then offered me the whole thing. So Pittsburgh.
A few days later, I went with Anna to try on Maid of Honor dresses for her sister Molly's wedding. While Anna was trying things on, I was making small talk with the consultant (owner? Manager? Sales associate? I don't know). She told me all about going dahntahn and how it only took her six minutes from Swissvale, but now with all the cars it could take an ahr. She wrote down all of Anna's styles, even though we weren't getting a dress there. Offered to let me try things on, too. Showed me the wasp building a nest outside the winduh--he was sticking his little head in 'air to make the holes. She was Pittsburgh through and through--lovely.

4. Fitz and the Tantrums
I might always make number four music. Because it's always one of my favorite things. This week? Fitz and the Tantrums...coming to Schenley Park for free on June 24!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Thank you very much.

So, I started doing a daily devotional about 6 weeks ago. While the devotional (sadly) only lasted a few weeks before it fell into the deep dark abyss that is the books beside my bed that I have yet to read, one of the daily "practices" stuck.

For the past month, I've been keeping a thankfulness journal. At the end of every day, I write down one thing for which I'm thankful as well as maybe a short sentence about the thing. The goal of the month was to not repeat anything, and I didn't. In the future, I'll allow for repeats.

 Looking back, I don't really know why I was thankful for these particular things on their respective days. But one think I know for sure: I'm a pretty blessed woman who has a lot to be thankful for.

My first month of thankfulness. I'm thankful today for...

-05/08: my mom. We don't alway see eye to eye, but she loves me and would do anything for me.
-05/09: the beautiful weather and the chance to enjoy it.
-05/10: the support I have here at my (PULSE) home. They're always here.
-05/11: Chris. He really believes in us--so important.
-05/12: new life. Alicia's brother and sister-in-law had a little girl, Adele, today.
-05/13: the ability to go out to eat. So many people in the world can't, and I live in a restaurant hot-spot.
-05/14: the chance to see Molly. She is such a wonderful person; I wish I knew her more.
-05/15: my wonderful community. It was great to see PULSErs and the neighborhood together cheering for the Marathon.
-05/16: my freedom. I'm not one for patriotic declarations, but the Freedom Riders inspire me.
-05/17: Sam and her support whenever I ask for it. She's great.
-05/18: another year in PULSE at ELDI to continue learning and growing.
-05/19: living in the city so I can see cool things like Cirque du Soleil. How awesome.
-05/20: quiet nights at home on the couch. Enough said.
-05/21: the Cyktor family. What wonderful people.
-05/22: my supportive church family.
-05/23: professionals willing to meet with young people. The advice they offer can be invaluable.
-05/24: my placement at ELDI. I couldn't have picked a better match for me, and it's amazing to look back on how God has worked through that process.
-05/25: laughter. It's always the best-whether it's medicine to cure whatever ails you or the cherry on top of the day.
-05/26: 4-day weekends.
-05/27: my big sister. She's so supportive of my ideas and just wants what's best.
-05/28: my niece. Anna's so beautiful--can't believe she's almost a year old
-05/29: indoor plumbing. Seriously.
-05/30: my very best friend, Amanda. We've been friends for over half of our lives.
-05/31: my big front porch with space for reading and eating and community-building.
-06/01: the wisdom and sympathetic ears of my friends.
-06/02: silly time spent in the car with Anna. And time spent in my room with Anna. And other times spent with Anna. Basically, Anna.
-06/03: making new friends and connections.
-06/04: Pittsburgh and the people here. It's just lovely.
-06/05: neighbors who willingly donate to PULSE. "Keep up the good work!"
-06/06: forgiveness from friends who dish out more to me than I deserve.

So there it is. A month of thankfulness, right from my journal.

What are you thankful for, Pittsburgh?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles.

Confession.

I really love raindrops on roses. Whiskers on kittens, too. Ever seen a brown paper package, tied up with string? It's one of my favorite things.

Har har har, I know. But really. I've been thinking lately about things that I love, thanks to an activity I'm doing about thankfulness (that I'll post in a few days, when the first month is up). I've decided that I want to write, weekly, about my favorite things. Then maybe some day when I'm old and grey and I regale my grandchildren with the stories of these things called blogs (who knows where we'll be by then), maybe I'll look back and remember some of those things. At the very least, it will serve as a reminder in two years.

So here it is...my favorite things. Edition one.

1. Chaco tan lines.
Those aren't my feet (I'm not that tan yet...), but they reflect my summer goal: get as ridiculous a tan as possible on my feet from my favorite shoes, my Chacos ZX 2s. To me, these tan lines signify a summer well spent in the sunshine, having adventures. Who doesn't love a summer like that?

2. Jam sessions on the front porch.
This weekend Joel, dear friend of Anna and a future PULSEr, came to visit us. Beatle (as he is affectionately called by a few Blufftonites) plays the guitar. 

After running to the grocery store to "just pick up a few things" and coming home with a full trunk of fresh produce and ice cream, we took to the porch for some singing. Joel played and we all sang and it was lovely. Occasionally we heard a crack of thunder, and a gentle breeze blew over us. Sounds like a cheesy book but that was my real life tonight. How awesome is that?

3. Reading.
Something I've loved forever. I don't think reading will ever NOT be a hobby of mine. But I've particularly appreciated it this week, spending most of Memorial Day on the front porch (noticing a theme here, perhaps?), as well as the days afterward. Who doesn't love curling up with a good book on a cold day, or escaping the heat with an intriguing storyline? Fools, that's who. 

4. This song.
Just in love with this song. No real reason. It's just catchy.



So...first "favorite things" post down. Only.....an infinite number to go. If I don't keep this up, punch me, okay?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What are your strengths?

So as most of you know, I'm a participant in PULSE (the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience) this year. In addition to our time at our individual placement nonprofits, we also have weekly seminars every Wednesday afternoon.

Way back in December, my dear friend and author of Hello World Anna, led a seminar on StrengthsFinder. Ever read it?

Before you even read the book, you're supposed to first sit down and take a somewhat intimidating test, with a time limit. You pick A or B for what seems like a million different scenarios, some that seem the same.

But whatever. You click and you click until your little fingers just can't click anymore and the test is over. It then gives you five strengths (StrengthsFinder...get it?). In addition to a 20-page PDF of your individual strengths, the book explains each of the 32 different strengths in detail.

I made it through all of the scary questions and the millions of clicks to receive my five strengths. In order, they are:
-developer
-empathy
-harmony
-belief
-restorative

Without going into all of the details, these are pretty accurate descriptions of me (you can read theme summaries here). I'm a sucker for these personality tests. Myers-Briggs? Taken it, or a variation, at least 5 times. I've taken more spiritual gifts surveys than I know what to do with. Last year when I went through career counseling (at the end of my senior year of college--clearly a "wtf I am almost in the real world" moment), I took multiple personality/strengths tests. But what do they really mean?

No test--on paper, on a computer, or otherwise--can tell you who you are or how to be. Imagine if we lived our lives based on what we were told by our astrological signs. I'd be imaginative and "extremely gifted artistically". I'm a pretty straightforward, literal thinker and not exactly the artist of the family (my older sister was the Star Child of her ceramics class in high school-literally).

So obviously, some of these "personality types" don't really tell us much about ourselves. But I think StrengthsFinder is a bit different. It tells me what I'm good at. What I enjoy--even if I didn't really realize that I like those things. Like projects with clear start and end dates. Why I love deadlines! Obviously I love finite projects with steps, not things that are all nebulous and hazy (another reason why I'm not a Pisces...). Duh. Just didn't really notice it until after I took the StrengthsFinder test. Definitely things to keep in mind, and things to work on.

Oh--one more way that I'm clearly not a Pisces? Pisces would apparently be very uncomfortable with running a company or holding any kind of leadership position. Obviously they haven't heard about my plans for world domination (World HQ will be, of course, Pittsburgh).