Wants vs. Needs

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I haven’t been this excited for Christmas in a long time. It’s not the gifts (that part always stresses me out and is part of the reason I have been such a Grinch the past few years). It’s the idea of spending time with my friends and family, and of the feeling of joy pervading throughout the air.

I have a lot of things to be thankful for this upcoming holiday season. I am thankful for my friends and my family, for a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and the life I have been given. My first semester of grad school will conclude the first week of December (that is a joyful thought in itself). I am thankful that I can live. That in itself is a blessing.

Even though I am of the mindset that Christmas should NOT come before Thanksgiving, I still think it is never too early to think about ways we can better ourselves. It is never to early to start implementing those changes.

Ever since I moved back home, I have taken a tiny room at the back of our house. The reason for that was when my dog Angel was alive, she was older and couldn’t make stairs well. With me being downstairs, she could come into my room much easier if she wanted to sleep with a human nearby. Now that she is gone (and I miss her terribly), I still have that small room at the back of our house and more stuff than I should have in a room that size.

A friend of mine said that for Lent, she took a plastic grocery bag and filled forty of them, one for every day during Lent. I loved that idea and so with Advent around the corner, I figured that was a great time to clear out the stuff I don’t need. Stuff is stuff. It fills space in our life, space that could be better used for holding love and joy. So that is my big thing for Advent. I do not need as much stuff.

But I do need love, friendship, joy, peace, contentment, gratefulness, and happiness. That won’t come from owning things. That will come from the people in my life, through interactions with them, and through giving. This could be giving a physical gift or it could be giving of my time or money, two things I hold dear since I don’t have much of either.

This past Sunday, I went to the Pittsburgh Zoo with my friends to celebrate my birthday, which was a lot of fun. However, the reality is that I can’t afford to take time and money every week for a new adventure. I want a new adventure, but I don’t need it. What I do need is contentment in where I am in life, even if it doesn’t seem like the most “exciting” life. Every life is a God-given blessing, even if it seems small. Sometimes the smallest ways we give are just what the world needs.

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Growing Up Does Not Have to Mean Boring

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This week, I will turn 23. For a while I was scared of that fact, since I really enjoyed being 22. I learned a lot. It was fun, scary, sad, lonely, joyful, and captivating. But since I am not in Neverland, I cannot say 22 forever, nor can I go back to being 7.

This time last year, I was in a dark place where I didn’t think I would have a job, I was terrified of moving and leaving my friends, and I thought my life was over. This week was the job interview that changed everything. This week was the anniversary of the day I was accepted to graduate school, on my birthday, of all days. This was the week that changed everything for the better. I grew up a lot this week.

Then December came. I already loathe winter, but it was made even worse by the fact that I graduated college and then my dog died the next day. Adulthood came upon me too fast, and I was unprepared for it. Throwing myself into my new job and my dream of becoming a children’s librarian, I devoured children’s books and films, rekindled my love for Disney films into a blaze that consumed me to the point that could quote my favorite films without thinking about it, even if I had not seen the film in years.

Then I joined my new church, where at first I felt out of place, like  a carton of eggs on a bread shelf. Occasionally, I still feel like I don’t belong. But then I remember why. I never feel out of place with certain people in the group (shoutout to Katrina and Shannon in particular), but with others I will never belong. Yet those are the ones whose approval I tried all these months to gain. It seems silly, looking back on it now. But now I realize it is all part of the growing up process.

I will never stop acting like a child. I will never grow up. If growing up means I must become boring, angry, and bitter like so many adults I know, then I want no part of it. When Shannon and I went to Fallingwater this week, all I could think about was a magical fairyland deep in the woods. Come on, even the name has an other-worldly feel to it.

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Call me crazy, but I prefer to believe that unicorns exist because the idea of them makes me happy. I like to think that somewhere out there is a dragon I can tame so I can ride it and cut my commute to work. I love the idea that a fairy tale is out there for me. I don’t mean the prince charming-happily-ever-after foolishness. Instead, I believe in magic. I believe in a pure, unadulterated, childlike wisdom that only comes with innocence and the desire to know more about the world, an Alice-like curiosity that cannot be satisfied. Yes, I am about to turn 23. But I will never, under any circumstances, allow myself to grow up. To forget what it is to be a child is to forget how to live. If you want to become old and bitter, go right ahead. I choose a life of joy and freedom.

Jankburg, PA

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As I started reading Tim Federle’s middle grade children’s novel called Better Nate than Ever, I knew exactly where Federle was thinking. Forty-five minutes outside of Pittsburgh, longing to get out (much like I did at thirteen), dreaming of a place where he’ll be accepted, and his brother has a track meet in a nearby town, I knew Nate was leaving my hometown.

Here’s a brief plot summary: Nate Foster, with the help of his best friend Libby, runs away on his own to New York City to audition for E.T.: The Musical and pursue his Broadway dreams. It’s a cute story, but it also brings to light some issues with bullying, as well as learning from the past so as to make the future better.

Before I go any further, I want to put a disclaimer: JUST BECAUSE I DO NOT LIKE MY HOMETOWN DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT IS A BAD PLACE. It was a wonderful place to grow up. My hometown gave me opportunities that led to other opportunities that led me to where I am now. However, just like every kid, I went through my periods where I hated the town and couldn’t wait to get out. It’s still not my favorite place in the world. All I’m going to say is that I knew how Nate felt as I read Better Nate than Ever. Keep in mind, Nate is thirteen years old, potentially homosexual (although Federle is pretty clear throughout the story that Nate is headed that direction, that he was always “different”), which causes a lot of problems for him at school. He doesn’t feel accepted there, as many people don’t in small towns when they have different ideals or don’t meet a certain standard. It’s a reality, especially when a certain ideology is predominant.

The only reason I am writing this blog post is to tell everyone to read this book. Nate wants to run away from Pittsburgh, just as I did when I was thirteen. I never wanted to return (as we all know, that was a failure since I’m back). Nate gets out of Jankburg and finds a whole new world in New York City. Nate’s running away from Jankburg is exactly what I wanted to do, and still want to sometimes. But maybe when Nate is older, he can come back to it and realize it’s not so bad.

Here’s a link to the book if you are interested: http://www.amazon.com/Better-Nate-Than-Ever-Federle/dp/1442446897

Art in Its Many Forms

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PPG Place

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The glass castle that’s not really a castle.2014-06-24 01.57.01

Me running through the PPG Place fountain.2014-06-24 02.43.11

So, yesterday was my first day trip into the Burgh!
I saw the city before it saw me, peeking around the hills as I drove down Ohio River Boulevard. I was on my way to the North Side to visit the Mattress Factory, which actually has nothing to do with mattresses. It’s a contemporary art museum, which to my astonishment, few of my Pittsburgh friends knew about. A college friend of mine from the city told me I should go since it’s his favorite museum. I did my research and found out that Tuesdays are half-price day and since I’m still a student, I got that discount, too. So that was pretty cool (and a relief to my bank account).
So, donning my Pittsburgh Pirates T-shirt to blend in, I stepped into the Mattress Factory. My conclusion: I don’t understand modern art. I guess a bunch of rusty car parts covered in salt and suspended from the ceiling has meaning for some, but not for me.
Not to say that it wasn’t worthwhile. It totally was. My favorite exhibit was the Infinity Dots Mirror Room, created by a Japanese woman. Before you enter the exhibit, you must remove your shoes or cover them. The room was blacklit and the polka dots on the floor shone green under them. There were panels of mirrors that made me believe I was walking into a maze (and almost went smack into one of the mirrors – it wasn’t a maze). That in itself was worth seeing.
One of the best exhibits was in the house a few doors down. The artist wove a net of black yarn all around the house, trapping everyday objects in the yarn, such as chairs, books, a sewing machine, a bed, and a wedding dress. It was supposed to be symbolic of memories. I really liked that.
Since my time at the Mattress Factory took a lot less time than I expected, I walked to the Andy Warhol Museum, also on the North Side. I’ve seen the Campbell’s soup can and the Marilyn Monroe before, but I never went to the museum. I was actually kind of confused about what made this guy so special, so I asked one of the docents. She said that he was the first to use screen printing for art rather than commercial purposes. She said he was a bit impatient (sounds like I’m in good company), so the screen printing was useful for making art quickly. Heck, it worked for him since now he has a whole museum dedicated to his work!
Art doesn’t have to be something you can hang on your wall, In fact, I think the best piece of art I saw that day was the city itself. I never realized just how walkable of a city Pittsburgh is. But I walked from the Mattress Factory to dahntahn with no trouble. I let myself get lost in the city, but there was one place that tugged at me: the PPG Place.
If you’ve never seen the building that houses Pittsburgh Plate Glass, the best way to describe it is a glass castle. There’s a fountain in the middle of the square. At first, I wasn’t going to play in it because I was by myself. But then I asked a security guard to watch my stuff. He happily did, and when I returned soaking wet and grinning like a crazy person, he commented, “You sure look like you were having fun.” He told me that he recently moved back to Pittsburgh after living 28 years in northern Maine. He doesn’t regret moving back.
And yesterday, neither did I.
After I left PPG Place, I let myself get lost along the Allegheny River (honestly, I can never remember which river is which). But as I wandered along, all I could think was “This is a beautiful city.”
Wonder what else this city has in store for me?