Thankful for My Life

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Today an old friend texted me to say she was thankful for me, but also for the people and experiences that shaped me and made me who I am. Wow. That blew me away. So many times in my life, I want to hate the bad and hurtful experiences and people in my life. I mean, it was terrible. It seared and burned.

But without those people and experiences I would not be me. Without bad things, we would never appreciate the good. So today, I am thankful for my life, even the regrets. I am thankful for the people who hurt me and the people who loved me. I am thankful for my life because it is a beautiful life just the way it is.

Where Is Your Heart?

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Different things hold importance to me at different times of my life. Sometimes the things I love fluctuate in phases, just like the moon. But when I love something either the moon is full or you can’t see it at all. There is no half or crescent moon. To quote the false Isabella Thorpe in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, “I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” When I fall in love, I fall in love.

Ever since I moved back to the Pittsburgh area, I’ve been asking myself this same question over and over. Where are you? What is important to you? What do you hope to take with you wherever you go? And, the big question, where are you now?

Physically, I am in Pittsburgh. But they say that home is where the heart is, and mine is always with the friends I left behind in Ohio, even if they are no longer living in Ohio. Once I warmed up to the idea of living in a state that everyone back home criticized, there was no going back. Now I can’t imagine not living in Ohio.

But that’s the beautiful thing about hearts. They hold a lot of love. So it is okay for my heart to be split between two places. It is okay for me to belong to both Ohio and Pennsylvania. As I thought about that today, I remembered the quote from A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard.”

December marks one year until my planned graduation date for my Master’s degree. So, very possibly, I only have one more year left in Pittsburgh. My heart is here, there, and everywhere. And that’s okay. If reading Harry Potter taught me anything, it’s that love is one of the most powerful forces in this universe.

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.

23 Blessings

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Today is my birthday! In honor of turning 23, I decided to take a step back and use this time to reflect on all the goodness and blessings God has given me in my 23 years of life. So, here goes!

1.) My amazing parents

2.) My two crazy but lovable siblings

3.) My new dog, Gus

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4.) A roof over my head, even if it’s not the roof I wanted

5.) I never go to bed hungry

6.) My car

7.) My job, at which I never had a bad day yet

8.) My friends, both in Pittsburgh and in Ohio

9.) For the faith community I found in Pittsburgh

10.) My education

11.) My ability to read and write

12.) All the traveling I have done in my life

13.) I lived away from home and moved back with more appreciation for it

14.) For the people in my life who have guided me along

15.) For libraries

16.) That I got to know all four of my grandparents, even though only one is still living

17.) For extended family who stand by you, no matter what

18.) For the beauty of nature

19.) For my health

20.) For my eyes, which are my favorite physical feature

21.) For my hometown library, which triggered my desire to be a librarian

22.) For the Harry Potter books, which led me to everything I am today

23.) For life

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

Surprise Yourself But Don’t Rush It

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I have been trying to make this my mantra since last week because I feel like I don’t do enough “for the first time.” Honestly, probably the last time I did something for the first time was back in February when I joined the new group with whom I now attend Sunday Mass. I made new friends and now I am becoming “part of that world” (sorry to burst Ariel’s bubble – hahahahaha, get it? – but it takes more than three days).

Just last week, a job passed through my inbox for which I thought I would be reasonably qualified. But I didn’t apply. Why shouldn’t I? It was a chance to move, do something different, to surprise myself! Why wouldn’t I want to apply for this job?

Because I still have some unfinished business here in Pittsburgh. I can feel it. I also know that everything will come in its time and rushing won’t make things any easier. I want a full-time job? Great. But think about how much time I’m spending now on grad school. It would be almost impossible for me to go to school full-time and hold down a full-time job. I just made new friends here. I’m not ready to give those up yet. Also, I still feel like there is a lot I can learn at my present job that will benefit me after I have my Master’s degree.

There’s no rule that says I must be a full adult at my age. I’m still relatively young. Sure, several of my friends are living the “I got a full-time job right out of college” life, and that’s okay. Our lives are all meant to take different paths and we will all get there eventually. That’s the beauty of our world. It takes all kinds of people to move and transform it.

If I am a librarian, and God is inside me, then it must mean that God is a librarian, too. He’s also a doctor, a computer wizard, a nurse, a mother, a father, a foodie, a writer, a baseball player, a restaurant owner, and a waitress. God is everything and in everyone. So, who cares if I’m taking a different path to be a librarian? We all are meant to take different paths to get where we are meant to be in life, but that doesn’t make us any less important. Material things mean nothing if you don’t appreciate the good in your life.

So, for now the bus stops here for me. I’m okay with sticking around a little while, enjoying the view, and learning some more about myself before moving on.

Home’s Still Far Away

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I am physically and mentally exhausted. Grad school is in full-swing, and writing this blog post is just a way to procrastinate from writing about information. It’s weird being a grad student in my parents’ kitchen versus sitting in a classroom discussing the topic of information with my peers. Somehow online discussion groups just don’t compare. Oh, online classes. But I digress. 

When I left Kent, I believed I was leaving my home. And at the time I was. I was leaving behind my friends who made life worth living and who made me better understand myself as a person. Now, I only still consistently talk to a handful of those people. Now I have a new life in Pittsburgh, with new friends, a new church, and a new perspective. 

But I still feel like a fish out of water. I always joked in college that you can take the girl out of Pittsburgh, but you can’t take the Pittsburgh out of the girl. Now I wonder if there was ever any Pittsburgh in me to begin with. If there was even any Ohio in me to begin with. I used to believe that there’s one place where we all belong and that we need to find that place. Now I’m not so sure. Since I’m still going to grad school through Kent State, that tie isn’t cut, but I’m living in Pittsburgh and wondering what I’m doing here. I wonder if I have a gypsy heart, where I’m not meant to stay in one place forever. I left my heart in Ohio, but now it’s tied to Pittsburgh again. Still yet, a third of it wants to escape somewhere entirely new. This is an odd revelation. But I guess this is my eternal lesson in patience. Learning to appreciate where you are now, not always trying to jump ahead to where you will be. And right now, I have a discussion post to write. Whoops. 

Pittsburgh’s True Religion – the Pittsburgh Steelers

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As mentioned in past posts, I am constantly at war with Pittsburgh’s true religion, the golden trinity of the Penguins, the Pirates, and the Steelers. And now, once again, Pittsburgh is battling a question of ethics versus victory on the turf.

Pittsburgh Steelers running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount could face charges of marijuana possession after being pulled over yesterday afternoon, BUT they were still allowed to play in yesterday’s preseason game. Why the heck did Mike Tomlin think that was a good idea? I’m glad the Steelers lost last night’s game.

What are we telling kids when an unarmed teen is killed unnecessarily in Ferguson, Missouri, but a football player is allowed back on a high school team after violently raping a young girl? Football is America’s true religion, and it is disgusting. Sports are supposed to teach discipline, teamwork, as well as losing and winning graciously, but lately kids are taught from a young age to win at all costs. Parents push their children harder than anyone. And the Steelers are setting yet another bad example for these children. If you’re an athlete, a good one, it’s okay if you make a criminal error because we’ll let you back on the team anyway because we need to win. Bell and Blout were arrested yesterday, but they were still allowed to play in a game. They may face charges, but somehow I doubt those charges will follow them their entire careers. If I was caught with marijuana, I would never set foot in a library as an employee again.

Will writing this post change anything? Probably not. But we need to quit worshiping men like this. True heroes do not kick a football around on the field and then make a fool of themselves off. I am willing to believe that there are true heroes in the sports world, but Bell and Blout do not exemplify my idea of a hero. And neither does Mike Tomlin for not addressing this issue.

Getting Real Tired of This

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Pittsburgh’s novelty is starting to wear off.

Driving in the city irritates me, and I am no better at it than when I took my first day trip into the city. Some unexpected car trouble has put my finances on hold for a while, so no recent day trips. And I’m about to start grad school long-distance, so I have classes and student loans to worry about. I’m frustrated and guarantee that by the time I write all this out, I will be significantly less annoyed. But right now, I want to vent.

I still miss my friends in Ohio, even though going back would not advance me in any way. If anything, it would drive me battier than I already am. However, that does not mean that I don’t kind of wish I could go back. Driving in Kent is a lot better than driving in Pittsburgh.

Even though I haven’t done everything on my personal Pittsburgh bucket list, there’s the idea in the back of my mind that I’ve already done everything I could ever want to do. One cannot live on museums alone. Latitude will never be the Dusty Armadillo. I’m getting bored of taking trips alone. So, now what?

Like I said, I’ll feel better once I’ve written all this out. But I want to take a vacation away from Pittsburgh, in a whole new place. I need some inspiration.