angels

Thursday morning my movers came.

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I booked them through http://www.uship.com, which is the best website ever if you want things moved without paying thousands of dollars. They were scheduled to drop my furniture off this week, and arrived at 7:30 AM on the dot. It was a freezing morning but a beautiful one, around 20* and sunny. The two movers, Alfredo and Enrique (not Iglesias), got to work quickly, lifting things effortlessly, working together like a well-oiled machine.

I have a good friend (and ex-roommate) named Abby who is very good at making friends. The day that her movers came to take all of her worldly possessions from our little house, I came home to find that she had ordered them pizzas, learned all about their families, and generally become their new favorite person and fallen within their best graces. Not shocking, of course, but still the kind of thing that you see and then remember that the kindness of strangers still exists.

With that memory warming my heart and the morning temperatures turning my fingertips to ice, I brought some coffee to my new friends Alfredo and Enrique. I got over my fear of strangers (shocking, I know) and struck up conversation. I am often quiet or awkward around people I don’t know well yet, and afraid to impose. I would normally stay inside, watching them from the comfort of my kitchen, wanting to be friendly but unsure of how to do so. Instead, I found myself exchanging pleasantries before quickly delving into why I was moving back home, where I was going, why I was quitting my job and getting on a plane to India.

Well, lesson learned. Never underestimate people whom you pay to do the heavy lifting. Turns out Enrique wanted no sugar in his coffee, please, because he keeps some Agave up front. And he knows everything that is wrong with our food system, and cares about the environment, and did you know that food companies put fish DNA in tomatoes to make them shiny? And Alfredo started a home school program in his community to improve the quality of education in the area and provide community members employment opportunities to get them away from a life of crime if they so chose (the moving business supports the schooling business). And Enrique knows some serious shit about yogic philosophy, the energy systems of the body, and the value of studying with great spiritual teachers. I sent them off with some vegan, gluten-free cookies and a copy of a book on the chakra system for Enrique. My heart was bubbling up with joy and friendliness and appreciation. How nice to make such unexpected friends.

So here’s my point: be nice to your movers. Tip your waitresses. Make eye contact with those people who make your lives easier. Give a hot drink to someone who is cold. Strike up conversation with a stranger. Never underestimate the human race.

After the truck moved away, I was convinced that Alfredo and Enrique were angels. This may sound silly, but it’s true. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know. But I am convinced that they were angels. People who unexpectedly appear in our lives, keep us on our toes, make us smile, fill us with joy, force us to throw away misconceptions, and give us small yet powerful gifts like joy and hope and relief and safety. And just as easily as they appeared, they leave. They generally don’t look like the cherubim we’re familiar with from fresco and children’s books. And they might come and go in large, yellow Penske trucks. Why wouldn’t they?

frosty.

Aside from my parents’ house, my grandmother’s house in Vermont is the only place I walk into and instantly feel home. It’s especially lovely at Christmastime, when Massachusetts generally hasn’t gotten much snow, and Vermont feels like a peaceful winter wonderland. The house can be chilly but is always filled with warmth; the cozy fireplace, the quiet, and the old family portraits and heirlooms make me want to stay forever. Life is simpler up there. My daily schedule often looks like this: wake up, drink coffee, do yoga in front of the fire, eat a piping bowl of oats, shower (sometimes), read, listen to old family stories, lunch, go for a brisk walk, read some more, maybe do the Times crossword with Dad, make dinner, watch a movie (often of the Rogers and Hammerstein/Gilbert and Sullivan variety), crawl back under the covers, repeat.

Vermont makes me feel like I’m in a Robert Frost poem. On a chilly, sunny walk with my Mom this week, “Stopping by Woods On A Snowy Evening” kept popping into my mind:

Whose woods these are, I think I know
His house is in the village, though
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow…

But, as I learned in middle school English, that poem is probably about death, and that’s not really my M.O. these days. I prefer the themes of two other poems by Frost, both of which remind me of my father: my favorite, Birches, which he once memorized in its entirety (it’s a long one); and a second, better known rhyme, and the first poem I ever committed to memory: The Road Not Taken.

In third grade, we were asked to memorize and recite a poem, our first assignment of this nature. It was a big deal both in the classroom and at my house. I distinctly remember standing in my old bedroom, at night, my father coaching me through each line:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth…

This post came into my mind as a way to share the entirety of that poem, both as a sweet memory of my father, as well as a (painfully obvious) corollary between the poem and my current situation: “I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference”. Duh.

Instead, I’d like to share possibly one of my favorite excerpts from Frost: the last lines of Birches.

I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away,
Never to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, until the tree could bear no more
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

and so it begins: the itinerary.

I’ve been discussing the Big Trip a whole lot over the past few months, but I’ve never laid out our itinerary here on the World Wide Web. For anyone who is interested, here’s my plan for the next six (or so) months of my life:

Jan 2: Wave goodbye to the United States. Hop on a plane with Mariel. Sleep, read, and have at least one meltdown over what we’re getting ourselves into. Be thankful for the fact that international airlines provide vegan meals (!!!). Arrive in Dubai. Spend a few hours in the world’s busiest airport.

Jan 3: Arrive in Bangalore, India. Then it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump over to Mysore, where we will live for a month studying at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in the mornings and explore our surroundings during the day. I can’t believe I’ll be here so soon. It’s the reason that I started daydreaming about India.

Month of January: eat lots of food, do lots of yoga, drink no tap water, keep mouth closed while showering (“Eat, Pray, Poop” doesn’t seem like a marketable book title).

Month of February: Say a sad goodbye to Mysore. Take a month to travel through India. Likely highlights include: Kerala (houseboats!), Varanasi (healing river waters!), Agra (Taj Mahal!), Udaipur (desert!), Dharamasala (monks!), et al.

March: Fly from Delhi to Kathmandu, Nepal. Spend a few days soaking in the city. [Mom and Dad: skip over this next sentence] Fly into Lukla, one of the most dangerous airports in the world; pray really, really hard (note to self: go to confession before boarding the plane). Trek to Everest base camp. This will take fifteen days, we will hire a Sherpa, we will sleep at tea houses along the way, and we will try not to get severe altitude sickness.

Late March: Fly from Kathmandu to Bangkok, Thailand. Spend a week or so between Bangkok (city slickers!) and Chiang Mai (temples and elephant sanctuaries and long necks, oh my!).

April: Laos (rhymes with cow), Cambodia (no landmines, please), and southern Thailand, where we will relax on the beaches of Kho Phi Phi (which we lovingly refer to as pee pee island–yes, that’s the correct pronunciation). And, no, we don’t plan on seeing any ping pong shows. [M+D….don’t ask]

Early May: Head back up to Bangkok. Hop on a flight to Kuwait. Say goodbye to Mariel. Ugly cry. Fly to Rome and meet parents. Take out emotions on them. Go to the Vatican!!! (I will be accepting prayer requests! Yes, I’m serious). Go to Florence. Eat lots of Gelato. Look at lots of art. Say goodbye to Mom.

Mid-May: Lourdes with Dad, and then on to St Jean Pied du Port (I am finally getting the hang of pronouncing this). Take 40 days to hike the Camino de Santiago with Daddio. Pee pants with excitement upon crossing the border into Spain. Have lots of hilarious fights with Dad. Arrive at Santiago de Compostela. Cry.

Mid-June: Head back to Madrid. Say adios to Dad. Spend a week or so visiting the old stomping grounds in Spain (Zaragoza, Barcelona).

After that: Africa? My parents’ house? It’s unclear…

I know that there will be days when I’m scared, or frustrated, or unhappy, or acting like a complete ungrateful brat. But I know that this is right for me right now. It’s what has been whispered in the back of my head and the depths of my heart for months. I am simultaneously completely unsure of, and totally at peace with, these plans. I want to make the most of each day, but I’m not sure what that will mean yet. Hopefully a good deal of gratitude, an open mind, and an adventurous spirit.

And because I think that posts without pictures are boring, here’s a picture of me in Argentina last summer, holding a jar of peanut butter after searching THREE WEEKS for the stuff. Backpacking is HARD, y’all.

Onward and upward!

comfort and joy.

Merry day-after-Christmas!

I have been too busy snuggling in front of the fire at my grandmother’s house to do much internetting. No matter how or what you celebrate, I hope that the holiday season has brought you precious time spent with loved ones and gratitude for all of life’s blessings. Of course I would have loved to write something moving and eloquent regarding what Christmas means to me, but instead I’ll wax poetic (and rely on pictures rather than eloquence) regarding some of the things that made my Advent and Christmas seasons special this year.

Simple family time. Some of the happiest moments for me over the past weeks have entailed sitting quietly with my family as we check our emails, or chopping vegetables as we prepare dinner, or having a cup of coffee with my mom in the morning. It really is the little things.

Letter boxing. If you’ve never heard of letter boxing, read a description here. It’s perfect for creative nerds who enjoy the outdoors. Click here for my Dad’s lovely post about the beauty of letter boxing. I mean, have you ever MADE your own rubber stamp? Try it. I think our family is hooked.

Ginger snappish tea. The bad news: you can only buy it in cases of 6 boxes from Amazon. The good news: You’ll go through them in a week. This is another new obsession in our house, and I love mine with a bit of stevia and maybe some almond milk. It’s warm and spicy and comforting.

Cooking for a crowd. It’s no secret I’ve developed a serious love for cooking over the past year. But most of my cooking usually consisted of me, alone, in my kitchen, cooking up a beautiful meal for….myself. Cooking for more than one person is a serious treat. With so many occasions for company, I’ve been able to slave away for hours in the kitchen and love every second. Luckily my parents are happy to sit back, pay for the groceries, and let me do my thing. I’m thinking of posting a few of my favorite recipes to immortalize them. Sadly the only pictures you’ll get will be random pictures of chopped carrots and pyrex cups full of beans.

YUM!

LENTIL LOAF.

Grandmother’s house. Is there anything better?

Thoughtful presents from Santa. HOW did he know I needed water purification tablets and countless journals? And, finally, a DVD copy of Pirates of Penzance?


…This particularly rapid unintelligible patter isn’t generally heard and if it is it doesn’t matter.

Christmas traditions. Each year I proclaim it the best Christmas yet. But this year, I had extra time to get in the holiday spirit. We played our favorite Christmas CD (The Roches – I’m looking at you, LindsAY), and I even begged asked my mom to take me to see the Boston Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker. It was gorgeous, and we got to get dressed up, and had a lady-date, and got lost in the wonder that the Nutcracker brings no matter how much you think you’ve grown up.

Writing, Yoga, and the enjoyment of unemployment. I thought I would freak out about being unemployed. I thought I’d have a few breakdowns over insignificant things like not having enough walnuts or waking up 5 minutes too late. Clearly I was wrong. I have felt so relaxed, and light, and happy, and free of obligation. It’s lovely. And, yes, I know I’m spoiled.

Two churches and a Christmas miracle. The nutcracker is lovely and Christmas cookies are delicious. Wreaths are beautiful and snow makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. But what brings me the most meaning this month is the birth of Christ, the true Christmas miracle that gives me joy and wonder even if I can’t always fathom it. This year, we went to a Christmas eve at my Grandmother’s church, with a full choir and a candlelit singing of “Silent Night”. On Christmas morning, we got up and attended Mass, with a beautiful homily on the meaning of Peace. I loved both services, and the opportunity to celebrate with my parents and my grandmother. Few things make me feel closer to my faith than belting out (albeit off-key) hymns alongside loved ones.

For me, Christmas is the coming of our Lord and Savior. It is family, and joy, and faith, and beauty.

unemployment oats

I love being at home. The holidays are here. The family time is plenty. I’ve got my parents’ pantry at my disposal and have been making good use of it. [Their garbage disposal at my disposal, too; it’s quite the luxury.]

I’ve been eating the exact same thing for breakfast every day this week. It’s been so nice to have time every morning to sit, enjoy a cup (or three) of coffee with my mom, and enjoy a delicious and special bowl of oats.

Here’s what’s inside:

Regular Overnight Oats, which contain:
1/3 C oats
1/2 C milk (plus maybe a little more water if it’s needed)
1 T flax meal
1/2 mashed banana
Vanilla extract, pinch of salt, a drop of maple syrup, and a sprinkle of cinnamon
topped with:
Natural PB (unsalted)
dried figs, chopped
candied ginger, chopped
shredded coconut – raw or toasted*

*Funny Story. I tried making raw macaroons in the oven and they were a complete failure. Catastrophic. But I scraped the salvageable, toasty, sweet coconut bits off of the pan and have been sprinkling them on my oats. I love kitchen failures that work to my advantage.

People say things like this all the time but this is THE MOST DELICIOUS BREAKFAST I’VE EVER EATEN and I can’t wait to eat it again tomorrow. The combination of the candied ginger (get the “healthier” kind with just ginger and raw sugar) and the peanut butter is ridiculous. Anything coconut, I love. The figs are sweet and chewy. It’s perfect.

And, of course, not eating breakfast at a cubicle is a serious luxury. The best part about being at home is simply the little, every-day moments I get to spend with my family. They’re rare and should be treasured. And they should be celebrated with fancy – but healthy! – breakfasts such as this. Especially while perusing the globe for upcoming travel destinations….

Merry Christmas Eve Eve, everyone!

goodbye, corporate america!

Today, December 22nd, 2011, is my last day on my employer’s payroll. Tomorrow I will be unemployed.

I’m sitting in my parents’ house, watching the sunrise over the water, admiring our tree, already drinking too much coffee (it’s 7 AM), and trying to let it all soak in.

A little over sixteen months ago, I zipped up my pencil skirt, slipped on my heels, packed up my overnight oats, and headed off to my first day of work at my Big Girl Job. It was a job I had worked hard to get, slogging through resume revisions and interview prep and anxiety over whether or not my suit was sufficiently ironed for my second round. As a student in the undergraduate business program at UNC, I had – as I like to say – “drunk the Kool-Aid”. This was my way of measuring my worth as a college senior. Getting a Big Girl Job was the goal. And I had to achieve it.

So I interviewed with a few companies and got offers from two consulting firms. I chose the one that would land me in Charlotte, a place I knew, a place that was comfortable for me. Looking back now, I’m not exactly sure why I thought this was the right job for me. I know I wanted to be able to use my brain, and help to solve problems, and work with people, and do something exciting. But I think it might have been a bit of the Kool-Aid talking, too. Regardless, I showed up for my first day, excited like a kid on her first day at Kindergarten. I had my lunchbox and everything.

I went through a month of training and orientation, and then landed on my first project. While I loved the excitement of meeting new people, working in a corporate environment, and feeling surrounded by ambition, I never really cared for – or understood – the subject matter. As the months went by, I became restless. Although I adored my coworkers, I was unhappy sitting in a cubicle all day, my human interaction limited to conference calls and instant messaging.

This time last year, I knew that I wouldn’t be staying at my job long-term. I wanted to stay at least a year, to prove (to myself? the world? my peers? whatever.) that I could do it, and to stay the course. But I knew I had to start thinking about what was next. And, although liberating, this was scary. But anyways. I distinctly remember writing down goals for 2011. One of them was: “Start Making Moves”

In January, I signed up for yoga teacher training to do something for myself and enrich my non-job life. It was one of the best – albeit impulsive – decisions I’ve ever made. I think that, as a young person/adult/twentysomething/lost girl it’s important to have parts of your life that are your own, that you nurture in order to nurture your soul. This was one of those.

And luckily, at about the same time I was having my “life is so hard and I want to quit my job and POOR ME” moment, a close friend was going through something similar. Text messages of “I want to quit my job” became “I want to quit my job and run away to India” and then, soon after, “Let’s do it“.

Lastly, I started this little blog. It hasn’t been much, but it was a big move for me. I was afraid to do it for months. I was afraid that people would think it was stupid, or that I would fail, or any of those excuses we make to keep ourselves from doing what our hearts keep yelling at us to do from the backs of our minds. But one day, I did it, and I kept at it. It reminded me that I love writing (Dad, you were write right). It reminded me that writing is good for me.

And then, of course, the day came for me to put in my notice. My ticket was booked, my pack had been purchased, my first round of travel immunizations still stung in my arm. This time, under that pencil skirt, I slipped on my big girl panties. I walked into my boss’ office and explained that I would be leaving in December. It was scary and exhilarating and liberating and I was shaking. But I did it.

There’s a whole lot I’m still working on. But I am proud of myself for making small decisions to get me to where I am today. I am thankful that I allowed myself to embrace uncertainty and leave even though I don’t have any future employment arranged for next year. I am grateful to my parents, my friends, and the Holy Spirit for supporting me and listening to me when I sobbed over picking the right travel insurance and being irresponsible and feeling utterly and completely lost. I’m proud of myself for making moves.

Today I’ll drive into Boston and drop off my security badge and this stupid PC I’m writing on (I’ve always been a Mac girl). I’ll be unemployed tomorrow. THAT scares me. I’ve always been a good student, a hard worker, an ambitious young lady. And now I’ll be unemployed. But I refuse to look at this as an embarrassment. I refuse to look at the last year and a half as a disappointment, or a waste. I am incredibly grateful to my employer and my coworkers for the opportunities they gave me and the skills I have gained. (Getting paid was nice, too). This was clearly something I was meant to experience. I stuck the course, I did my best, and now I’m rewarding myself with a little “me” time. This year was formative, and exciting, and frustrating, and difficult, but I made some moves, and I got through it.

Now, on to the next…

creature comforts

I had a small epiphany while brushing my teeth the other day. How poetic! I know. And ironic because two days later my dentist told me I had roughly one bajillion cavities. If I ever brag about taking good care of myself, please slap me in the face and hand me some dental floss.

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Anyways, back to my epiphany. I realized that soon (in about 14 days) I’ll be without a lot of the creature comforts that I currently take for granted. I won’t be waking up in a cozy, plush, warm bed. I won’t have a spacious home to dawdle around in. I won’t have a full wardrobe (er, room with clothes on the ground) at my disposal. I won’t be able to open my mouth in the shower (have you SEEN the Sex and The City Movie?!) My mom won’t be making me coffee in the morning and I won’t be doctoring it up with homemade almond milk and maple syrup.

So, for the next fourteen days, I should probably be grateful for these things.

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This past weekend, my mother volunteered at an event where thousands of homeless children were bussed in from shelters throughout the Boston area for a big party, complete with a meal, crafts for the kids, and plenty of toys. She came home with a full heart, inspired by the joy that these families – who have so little – could share with her, and grateful for all that we are blessed with: a warm and comfortable home, healthy and loving family members, and the ability to spend the holidays together. For someone like me, who frequently pouts when the fridge isn’t stocked with organic spinach, this was a nice little wake-up call. We all have so much: so much to be thankful for, and so much to give.

So, with gratitude for what I have and an understanding that my life will be a little less “comfortable” in the coming months, I’m endeavoring to be grateful for the little things. Warmth. Tap water. Fresh food I can make for myself. My own room. Fluffy towels. Cooking for my parents. My laptop. More than five pairs of underwear. A tree that sparkles and reminds me that Someone very special has a birthday coming up (a.k.a. JESUS!!!).

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Let’s all be grateful for the little things and the big things. We are so lucky.