Thursday, April 28, 2011


"All the women, who independent.."

Sorry Beyonce, I can't throw my hands up 'atcha. Because as much as I don't like to admit it I am independent...

...financially dependent that is. And it!

This all comes up because today is both the saddest and most hopeful day of the month; the day before pay day. Whatever genius decided to enforce once a month paychecks at my work is kind of an, well you choose a word. I've had almost 12 paychecks and I still struggle to find a way to keep my head above water the last week before pay day.

Lets take this back a notch. Being the hands-on (cough, control freak) person that I can be at times, I want to be independent in every way, shape and form. Which I guess is a good thing when you look at the alternative. My parents so graciously helped me all through college, paying my rent and groceries for years. So when I moved to Philadelphia and realized that not only would my schooling be paid for, but I'd be making what I thought at the time was a pretty generous stipend I was ecstatic. This was my chance to prove that I could do it on my own. Be an adult. Support myself. Visions of spreadsheets and budgets danced in my head (I know.. I'm sick). When I did the math and realized that my rent was going to take up about 2/3 of my shrinking paycheck, I found out I was embarking on more of a challenge than I'd anticipated, but I was determined to make it work. 

What was my first lesson in reality? You can't plan for everything (it hurts to even say those words). My very tight budget worked this way: deduct rent, SEPTA pass, cable & internet and groceries and I'd have the rest to spend and save.  But what didn't I factor in? Books, twice a year school fees, birthdays, Christmas presents, school activities, work clothes and two plane tickets to Seattle. Suddenly this wasn't as easy as it once seemed.

Thankfully, I have great parents. Parents who realize that I am still in school, and would rather have me pay higher rent living in a safe and secure area than saving the $250 and praying I don't get jumped on the way home from the subway. They saw me struggling and let me know that what I was living on was a stipend, something that was suppose to assist my living not something to live on. And I think they knew I wasn't buying prime rib and making it rain all weekend. So they stepped in and helped. And don't take that the wrong way Mom and Dad because I literally couldn't do it without you--but I hate it. Because although I am working hard for my money I feel like every dollar I spend isn't just mine, its theirs. I get financial guilt when I spend our money on the extras once and awhile--a baseball game, a trip to Seattle, a night out to dinner, that round of beers that I probably didn't have the money to buy, a first second third Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee for the week. But I know that the guilt is better than the flip side; spending blindly with no concern. And it helps me evaluate if I really need x,y and z. Like a prep course for when I am finally on my own two feet, so I guess in a way its helping me. 

Most people may think I'm crazy, but I long for the day of financial independence. Its just part of my weirdo controlling tendency. I think that part of it is my impatience too--I want it now, feasible or not feasible. So until that's more of a reality, I'm accepting (and appreciating) help where help is given, and know that one day I'll have a job, an income and someone to share these costs with. How exciting right?

More importantly, I know one day Beyonce will be proud of me..

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Redefining Easter

Ah, Easter. A celebration of chocolate, Jesus and ham (not necessarily in that order)..
Easter in my family has always been a holiday about more than chocolate, Easter baskets and ham. Its always been a church holiday, and being raised Catholic my siblings and I could tell you the story of Easter front and back once we all got through six years of Sunday school and countless Sundays at church with my parents. Lets see, 52 Sundays x 18 years.. you get the picture. However, as we have all aged, I think its safe to say that none of us attend church as regularly as we did (that's being generous), I'm sure much to the dismay of my parents.  

In the spirit of Easter, last week my mom said she had an article about holy week that she wanted to send me. I have to say I was skeptical. U.S. Catholic is not typically my leisure reading material of choice, but I quickly found out why she thought of me upon reading it. And I have to say, I'm glad she did.

The article, coincidentally entitled "Are We There Yet?" was all about Holy Saturday. For those of you who need a quick refresher (and a lesson in theology), as I did, Holy Saturday is the day in between Good Friday, the day Jesus died, and Easter Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the dead. Now despite your religious views, I bring this to light because in this religiously charged article I found a very universal message, and something that I am constantly preaching about on this very platform. 

Oh yes, it was all about waiting. Remember waiting? Its something I never talk about and have all the patience for in the world (if only you could hear the sarcasm as it rolls off my tongue). Holy Saturday is kind of the loser. The runt. The forgotten day. Being the day in between two very big days, it is really just a day full of waiting. On the surface, something of little importance. But if you know anything about me, you'll understand why this struck a chord. I am both familiar with and equally struggle with waiting. With patience. With an uncontrollable future. 

Having breezed through the Lenten season (sorry Mom), I now felt this small connection between my life and things like scripture, homilies and gospels that I could never wrap my head around. Once I could relate to this on a personal level, it forced me to look at Easter in a new light. 

What I took from the article was simple: most of our lives are Holy Saturdays--the seemingly unimportant time in between the good and the bad, waiting with silence and hope that there is something better on the other side. But really these "seemingly unimportant days" are the most important of them all. They make all the good in our lives possible. There is no Easter Sunday without Holy Saturday. In layman's terms, you have to endure the waiting to get to the celebration, whatever that may be. 

For me, my relationship is my Holy Saturday. This waiting, this test of patience, this (at times) unbearable separation, this exercise in endurance is the time in between. The dues I have to pay before I get my Easter Sunday--normalcy, stability, togetherness, a new life, and the loads and loads of love that come along with it. 

While I do still struggle with my role in my own religion and faith, its encouraging to find this connection however small it may be. Its good to look at your life through a different lens every now and then,  and this Easter I am thankful that I was forced to do just that.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Going Mental

As I have shared with you all, I am currently in the midst of training for a half marathon. For me, this countdown is even more anticipated than the royal wedding, if you can believe that. The official countdown? 22 days!

For anyone who has trained for a race, or really any sort of test of endurance, you know that its all about building. Prepping. Conditioning your body to understand a new standard of normal and to push through. But no one ever talks about the mental building. I think there should be a whole extra chapter book on that.

Running is mental. I've been told this by lots of runners. But I really started to believe it when I knew my body could do one thing, but some days I just couldn't pull through to finish it out. The body is an amazing thing, but if your mind isn't synced up, its going to be a very bumpy ride.

Last weekend, a group of us competed in a local 8k (5 miles) race. My training up to date has been all about endurance. While finishing at a certain time would be nice, finishing itself is the goal. Turns out, I completed the 8k minutes before I anticipated. While it was a gigantic boost of confidence, I must say, a small part of me started to worry. Sure, I was able to push myself, but in four weeks I would have to run nearly triple what I just completed. For the first time I really started to wonder what if I really can't do it. Insert mind eff.

Naturally, I began to fear the magnitude of what was still ahead of me. Having not completed a long (8-10 miles) run since early March (eek) I knew I had to conquer my fear and just commit. So in the spirit of my jovial day on Wednesday, I decided today was the day I was going to bang out 10 miles. The sun was shining, it was nearly 75 degrees and I was out of work at 2:00 pm--what could possibly go wrong? Well in the interest of keeping this short, I failed. My legs felt heavy. I couldn't get into the groove. I was HOT. I couldn't imagine taking 3 more steps let alone finishing 3 more miles. Not only did I come in very shy of my goal for the day, but I was literally miles from home. FAIL. I had the whole walk home to beat myself up, get more nervous, to ask myself if I could really do it. In a matter of 35 minutes my mood went from good to bad. 

Looking at my schedule, today was the only other day to conquer this run. When I awoke this morning I contemplated not going, but I had to. So I mapped my plan of attack and took it one step at a time. Literally. Slow and steady wins the race, I had to think. Scratch that, I'm a bit more of a realist--slow and steady may not win the race, but she'll finish. 

I focused on each next destination on my route, slowed my pace down when I got overwhelmed, and even though I felt like a stroller could have passed me at times, I forged on. I purposely planned my route so that I would stay occupied. Through different neighborhoods, along different streets, and before I knew it that little voice on my iPod was telling me I had one mile to go. 

With each step I knew I was getting closer and closer, and as I started to recognize my surroundings I knew exactly how far from home I was. I mustered everything I had until it was done. Finished. As I stopped at the steps in front of my apartment I was tired, but not winded. Sore, but not uncomfortable. That good feeling when your legs are tight and strong like they could carry you all day.  I knew I'd just made a huge accomplishment in my physical training, but more importantly in my mental training.  Because for the first time, the only thing I could think was...

Holy shit...I'm really going to do this!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'm Lovin' It

Ba da ba ba ba.....

Mmmm McDonalds. I wish. Anyways, today is Wednesday, which in my book is reason enough to celebrate. Half way there. Hump Day. No classes day. Take your pick. Also, as far as I'm concerned, it's finally spring. Someone woke up on the right side of the bed today and I couldn't help but share with you all everything I'm lovin' today!

Spring: Dare I say it (everyone hold your breathe here), it is finally spring. Praise Jesus. While I could do without the overcast weather, the only thing that matters is that it is warm. As an upstate New Yorker it has taken me until almost May to realize that my winter coat may be in the closet for good, and I may (gasp) not need a coat at all soon. Nothing like eliminating the bulk and being totally comfortable walking out the door without the sweater/coat/mittens/boots/change of shoes/etc. Bye bye!

Sleep.Sleep.Sleep: Every time my boyfriend leaves it takes my body and my mind about two days to sync back up to the same speed. I typically refer to it as my emotional jet lag. Monday night I slept for 9 hours (unheard of on a weekday), but still had a groggy case of the Tuesdays the next day. Today, with my boss being gone for the day, I snoozed the alarm, got an extra half hour of sleep (and may or may not have sacrificed a shower along the way..shh), and felt no rush getting into work. I took my time, enjoyed my coffee and was only 20 minutes late. More importantly, I feel 100% back to normal. Talk about a win-win.

Good Start: Lets call a spade a spade here. The Philadelphia public transportation system is no dream to ride. But really, is there anything better than walking down to the subway and catching the train right as it arrives? Without missing a beat? Call me easy to please (or maybe I'm just spewing rainbows this morning), but it was a great way to start the day.

Easter: Although I was just home two weeks ago for my impromptu visit, I have been counting the days to return home for Easter. What can I say?! I miss mah girls, its another event to put on the calendar to make the weeks fly by, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't salivating now at the thought of all the food I'll be consuming. Sweet, sweet, upstate New York. 

An end in sight: I would be lying if I said this semester wasn't a test of mental endurance. For as fast as the winter has moved along, this semester has simultaneously dragged along. Today looking at my calendar I saw it--the end! Weekends filled until the end of the semester, upcoming summer plans, plane ticket locked and loaded for my big race. Its here. Its really really upon me. And lets be honest, if the thought of seeing this face doesn't get you through the weeks, I don't know WHAT would.. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Last Goodbye

Back after an extended hiatus. And what a hiatus it was. While I should be nose deep in school work that I could care less about, this is where I was dying to return to. To share. To reflect. To keep my spirits up. 

My boyfriend made a surprise visit home, one that I somehow managed to keep my lips sealed about, and it was fab-u-lous. Just like they always are. And also bittersweet; just like they always are. Bitter because the routine creeps in like it always does, the roller coaster of emotions; euphoria, excitement, brimming happiness and as much as you try to deny it, the inevitable tinge of sadness as the days to departure get smaller and smaller. But always sweet. Sweet because of togetherness, surprises, smiles, family, friends and a bigger and bigger tease taste of what the future holds. Future, a word that is finally just an arm's length away.

I haven't been shy about sharing my emotional outbursts with the group, but this visit was different. Nearly void of tears. There was little mention of how sad D-Day (departure day) would be. I was conscious to embrace everyday, because this time D-Day wouldn't be as sad as usual. This D-Day was my last. I've said my last goodbye. 

Although 4 months stand in the way, all I have to look forward to are hellos. Hugs. Kisses. Stability. A new routine. A life full of normal days: 

Normal day,
let me be aware of the treasure you are
Let me learn from you
love you, savor you,
bless you before you depart.
Let me not pass you by in quest of some
rare and perfect tomorrow. 
Let me hold you while I may, 
for it will not always be so.
One day I shall dig my fingers into the earth,
or bury my face in the pillow, or
raise my hands up to the sky, and
want more than all the world
your return.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Juggle Struggle

Lets just say TGIW (thank god its Wednesday), because this week has really been kicking my ass ROUGH. Recently, I have been feeling a wee bit overwhelmed, and if you have to be around me on a daily basis, I extend my utmost apologies...because I'm sure you've been able to feel it. So much to do and so little time. Its what I like to call my juggle struggle. 
There I am. Just me and a few of my closest friends. You know--work, school, relationship, friends, stress, priorities. The whole gang. This is actually depicted perfectly. Because just like this unsuspecting fellow above, all of my balls are about to come crashing down.

Now its not all whoa is me (but continue playing the tiny violins if you're so inclined). A lot of this need to juggle is self imposed, or at least could be avoided. 

Procrastination has been a major (double underline, bold, caps, size 90) problem this semester, and I'm finding that in these next 2-3 weeks alone I have more school work to do than the first 10 weeks of the semester. So yes--I take responsibility, but to be honest, I'd rather complain about it.  

With my man on his way out the door, I have been finding it painstakingly important to soak up every single minute we have left "together" (aka Skype time, phone calls, etc.), and am trying to squish together my hectic schedule to hopefully find some time in May to see him off. You know, between finals, my internship start date and my half marathon. That pinhole of opportunity.

And work you ask? Earlier this semester I was so paranoid about finding paying work for the summer, as I'm barely scraping by on my fairly generous stipend which runs out in May. Now? I have 3 part-time jobs in the works which is great, don't get me wrong, but I'm finding myself increasingly worried about taking on three independent schedules and satisfying everyone's needs and expectations.

Alas, my poor friends. News flash: this is the wrong time of year to call. Or catch up. Or visit. I feel like I need to have an extended voice mail greeting: "Your call will be returned in approximately 3-7 business days. If it isn't...keep waiting." I've also found myself looking at my calendar and having to tell people, "sure I'd love for you to visit for a weekend.. how's June look for you?"

So on top of long overdue mounting school work, soaking up my boyfriend time and career fears, I've helped myself to a side of panicked half-marathon training, money woes and a bit of friend guilt. Talk about a tall order.

I'm starting to wonder if this is something I should get used to. Are there ever really enough hours in the day? 

So the question I extend to you is this: is it a matter of eliminating some of the balls, or just become a better juggler?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Blessed are the Flexible

Well, its been almost a full week since the bomb was dropped. And for any of you who were scared that I was still drowning in my own tears, rest assured. I am alive and well. 

In these last few days I've already been schooled in a lesson that I'm sure I will be an expert in by summer's end: mind over matter. On Monday my mind was a jumble and my body was physically rejecting this news. I was short of breathe. I was consumed in crying fits. I couldn't finish sentences without being choked up. That hiccup-like crying where you can't get a word out let alone breathe. But now, my mind has forced my body to heal. I can breathe, deeply. I am composed. I can hold conversations (void of emotional outbursts) about what the future holds. I am back to normal, making this work. 

I have already made a short list of things that will make the summer fly by. I recently secured an internship for the summer (finally), and will continue to work two part-time jobs with my current boss. I have a half marathon to train for, and conquer. If nothing else, I can run away from this mess! I have a new baby niece to arrive in July, and can not wait to meet her. I have a summer free of classes, and friends scattered around the east coast to visit. I have sunshine to enjoy, and a vampire-esque skin tone to improve. I have a sister, a two-hour train ride away, who will also be mind-over-matter-ing her summer while her boyfriend is deployed. I have unexplored corners of my nearly year-old city waiting to be explored. And this is just my short list!

Admittedly, this lack of scheduling and proper notification is still a nightmare for a control freak like me. Changes in "the plan" or a last minute change in release date, things that I will have no say in, no control, no pull, still scares the living daylights out of me. But I have to acknowledge, and more importantly accept, that I am helpless here. I am at the will of a schedule greater than my own. 

I have to be a rubber band for the foreseeable future. As my Mom always says, "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape."