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Trick or Treat!

31 Oct

We grow up constantly being told never accept candy from a stranger, yet here we are; devoting an entire day to solely accepting candy from strangers.

trick-or-treat

To this day, I can not recall what my costume entailed or how I wore my hair. I never did enjoy dressing up, I was neither creative nor fashionable. I vaguely remember a witch costume, one I continually recycled through the years; mainly because I knew no costume meant no candy.  It was a chilly afternoon. The days were getting shorter and the sun set shortly after school let out. Tree branches were nearly bare and the streets were lined with piles of dried out, damp leaves. RIP grave stones were placed on front lawns and pumpkins were placed on the front stoop. Witches, ghosts and goblins dangled from the porch light and creepy, bloody old scarecrows were positioned in such a way you were guaranteed a scare.

I was twelve and a small group of us managed to convince our parents to let us trick or treat on our own. We left school together, stopping at random homes along the way, collecting candy-eating more than we actually saved. What I remember most is how the streets were packed! Princesses’ and superheroes alike raced from lawn to lawn, their parents never too far behind. Eventually the kids would clear out and it became the older kids turn. My favorite houses were the ones who knowingly left a basket and a sign “please take one”. I always thought wow, they must be very honest people. We would laugh at the slight possibility of actually following their request, look behind us as someone would dump the basket into their pillow case. Looking back, this may have been harsh (especially considering other children had been to this house prior and had followed directions, hence why we were given the opportunity to also only take one candy) but when you’re twelve your greedy and hyper and twelve year olds love candy.

The jack o’lanterns are flickering in the breeze and their carved out design suddenly has become clear. The creepy scarecrow has come to life, dry ice and music is added for effect. There is an eerie feeling in the air, which adds to the SPOOKTACULARNESS of the entire night.

That was twelve years ago.

enjoy your hot chocolate

18 Oct

happy people“A  group of graduates, well established in their careers, were talking at a reunion and decided to go visit their old university professor, now retired. During their visit, the conversation turned to complaints about stress in their work and lives. Offering his guests hot chocolate, the professor went into the kitchen and returned with a large pot of hot chocolate and an assortment of cups- porcelain, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite-telling them to help themselves to the hot chocolate.

When they all had a cup of hot chocolate in hand, the professor said ‘Notice that all the nice looking, expensive cups were taken, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. The cup that your drinking from adds nothing to the quality of the hot chocolate. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was hot chocolate, and not the cup; but you consciously went for the best cups… And then you began eyeing each other’s cups.

Now consider this: Life is the hot chocolate ; your job, money and position  in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life. The cup you have does not define, nor change the quality of life you have. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the hot chocolate God had provided us. god makes the hot chocolate, man chooses the cups.

The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything that they have.

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.

hot choc

And most importantly, enjoy your hot chocolate.”

amish in todays world

16 Oct

amishImagine living in a world with no automobiles, no electricity, and no modern day technology. Your days are long and revolve entirely around the sun [hot summers and long cold winters]. Once the sun sets, your only form of light is that of your battery operated lantern. Your attire is simple yet strict and very conservative. Your family is large, tight-knit and religious. Your horse and buggy take you from Point A. to Point B. and your most recent updated piece of technology is your flush toilet and washing machine. Can you picture it? Some may classify this as the simple life. It’s hard to believe that way back when this used to be the norm, this was everyday America. We lit our homes by candle light, a wood burning stove warmed our homes and we hung our clothes out to dry. We were self sufficient, relying entirely on ourselves for food, clothes and work. Most Americans have grown and since moved out of this self sufficient way of life. However, for some this continues to be everyday life, even up to this present day. Imagine growing up Amish in today’s rapidly growing and ever changing society.

Being Amish is more than a religion; it’s a way of life. Their lifestyle is what many of us might consider old-fashioned. They seem to appreciate the finer things in life such as [timefamily and independence] as opposed to [wealthfame and fortune]. Personally, I’ve always known of the Amish- heard of them, maybe seen them in passing, but I had never seen them in their own environment, living their day to day lives. This past weekend I visited Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Lancaster is home to more than 30,000 Amish, making it both the largest and oldest Amish community in the United States. I pictured Lancaster as a small village populated merely by Amish families, each living in houses too small and surrounded by endless farms. Cliché? Yes, probably, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I knew Lancaster County is a tremendously well known tourist area with thousands of tourists visiting on an annual basis, but I couldn’t fully understand how or why anyone would want to visit. What qualified as a visit? Would the Amish go on living their day to day lives as we (non-Amish) stopped, stared, pointed, gawked and asked questions? It seemed a little rude in my opinion, yet as humans we have a tendency to be overly interested in anything different so naturally, I was curious.

A few miles outside of Intercourse, PA, I witnessed a horse trotting down the main road with a buggy rightamish 2 behind it. I thought, “well there’s something you don’t see everyday“. Not even 100 feet behind was another one, just trotting along, keeping up with the flow of traffic. It was a distinct sound, the clicking and clanking of the horses shoes hitting the concrete and the rumble of the thin buggy tires moving over the blacktop. Overall, Intercourse was what I had expected. No, there was no stopping or staring (okay, maybe a little staring), but mostly because I was genuinely curious and intrigued by their lifestyle. As we drove down the main road or walked through town, I realized how friendly and genuine the Amish were. Not that I expected them to be rude, but I wasn’t sure what their reaction would be to the idea of myself, along with a thousand other outsiders visiting simply to see them.. That and maybe some shopping.

The town of Intercourse was small and quaint with acres of open land, corn fields and cute brick farmhouses. I was surprised to see Amish homes mixed in with non-Amish neighbors and at first, it took a while to distinguish between the two. Their homes were large, nicely maintained, made mostly of brick and each displaying one single candle in each of the front windows. At the end of each driveway was a barn-garage where they kept their horses with a buggy parked out front. Laundry was hung out to dry precisely in color and size order. Their outfits were simple and entirely lacking detail. The women wore solid colored dresses covered with a black apron. Their hair was neat and tightly secured in a bun, which was covered by a white bonnet. Men wore a solid, dark suit, no pockets and suspenders, as well as a straw or black hat. It was picture perfect America. The men worked in the yard, cultivating the crops and keeping up on yard work, while the woman cooked, cleaned and kept up with everyday house chores. Children played in the yard with any make-shift toy they could find, all the while laughing with not a single care in the world.

amish 4Tonight, I lay on the left hand side of my bed; laptop on my lap with my bedroom light on, trying to imagine what life would be like as a young Amish girl. For one, I would probably be married with a couple of children by this point. Earlier in life, I would have attended a small schoolhouse with approximately 30 other children. A teenage girl would have been my teacher and I would either roller skate or scooter my way to class. By the age of 13, I would have received all my required education and would begin working around the house with my family. By age of 16, I would be given freedom to experience the English world before getting baptized. I would be given the opportunity to make the ultimate decision, do I want to follow the Amish lifestyle or do I want to leave it behind? Sunday’s would be devoted to God and the church and in turn there would be no work. Church would last about 3 hours followed by a large hearty lunch afterwards. The days are repetitive, the children are well disciplined and every life choice is a direct reflection of God.

It’s hard to imagine what life would be like without the everyday necessities we have become accustomed too. Each day we wake up to an alarm, turn on our bedroom light and proceed to take a hot shower. After, we probably check Facebook, upload our latest ‘selfie’ onto Instagram and send a quick text to our best friend, possibly even before we get out of bed. We then get in our gas or electric operated car and proceed to drive to our traditional 9-5 job, maybe stopping along the way for a Dunkin coffee or a doughnut. By this point, it’s not even noon and we’ve already used electricity, taken a hot shower and driven a car.

I suppose when you grow up in a certain environment, with specific values and culture, you don’t know any different.amish 3 Lights, automobiles and cell phones all become second nature, especially when you use them on a daily basis. However, if we had never previously been exposed to such technology we wouldn’t miss it. I think with the Amish it’s different though. The majority of American’s live in a similar world, some may have more than others, but the option is there for equality among all citizens. For the Amish, some may say they live in a bubble. However, that bubble is surrounded and intertwined with non-Amish families. They may ride a horse and buggy to the local market, but they are doing so alongside a family driving a truck, with the kids in the backseat listening to their Ipod while texting on their Iphone. It must be difficult to live life differently than your neighbors in a society that is so technologically advanced. The differences between me and an Amish girl are significant, but in the end we are each experiencing the same life, just with different outlooks.

early autumn

8 Oct

1380487_10200772882267805_1306836639_nIt was a rather large lodge, up on a hill overlooking the surrounding mountain side. The air was crisp and the leaves had just begun to change their colors as the chill of early fall set in. The interior had been newly renovated and everything about it was picture perfect. The main lobby smelled of oak. Two large decorative chandeliers made entirely of birch and bark hung delicately from the ceiling, giving off just enough light to cast a shadow onto the freshly polished wooden floors below. To my left was a fireplace made entirely of cobblestone surrounded by a welcoming array of ornate furniture. Although there was not yet a need to have the fire lit, the area was as warm and inviting as ever. I stopped for a moment in awe, before continuing up the stairs into the restaurant, where Sunday Brunch was being served.

1392642_10200816890207976_1784666528_nThe main dining room, like the lobby, was very welcoming. My tummy rumbled as the smell of freshly made French toast, warm maple syrup and bacon filled the room. The sun beat in through the large glass windows, just enough to take the chill out. Articulately designed wooden rafters lined the outer edges. Again, there was an oversized cobblestone fireplace used as the focal point of the wide open room. This one displayed two massive and perfectly restored moose and deer heads on each side of the mantle. I have seen many deer, none have even remotely measured up to the deer being displayed in this room. We were seated at a small table adjacent to the window. Outside I watched as children frolicked, dogs ran loose across the open field and couples walked leisurely, hand in hand. I ordered a Mimosa and filled my plate with French toast, eggs, bacon and fruit. We each helped ourselves to seconds and then made our way outside to join in the festivities.

1383726_10200816889927969_872143079_n For early October, the weather was perfect.  It was warmer than average for this time of year, but still cool enough to enjoy all that early autumn has to offer. We found ourselves alongside a small, slightly overgrown lake. I could hear the laughter of children echo around me from a nearby playground, while others waited enthusiastically for their chance to rent a row boat. A paved walk way began to our left which appeared to loop around the lake. Beat up picnic tables were somewhat thrown, in no particular order, and dead, discolored, crunchy leaves scattered the ground. The park was exceptionally crowded that day, due to an annual Oktoberfest celebration. Everyone walked, or in some cases stumbled their way around, laughing and talking amongst friends with their overly large beer mugs filled to the brim. We made our way around the lake, stopping occasionally to take in the changing leaves and admire the way the clouds reflected off the top of the water. The eastern portion of the walk, and the final stretch, was the most populated. Kegs of beer were overflowing the backs of pickup trucks, tents were packing out as much German sausage and food as you can imagine, while children and parents a-like dressed the part. The girls wore long basic dresses with their hair in matching pigtails, while the boys wore cute little hats and striped shorts with suspenders attached. We made our way back to the start of the trail where people continued to wait in line for a row boat and children remained hyper and energetic on the playground. The picnic tables were sporadically occupied by dogs and their owners stopping to take a break in the shade. Feeling content we made our way back to the car. The main parking lots had since emptied out a bit as we continued our way across the lower grass filled overflow lot and out onto the main road. It was the perfect Sunday. The way every Sunday should be. Everyone was relaxed. Laughter was the only sound. In that moment, everyone was happy.

small town girl

5 Oct

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I grew up in a small town, some may say too small for comfort. One square mile filled with intertwining streets, yellow blinking lights and cookie-cutter-homes. The kind of town you can’t wait to leave and then immediately miss once you finally do. The summer I left for college I was eighteen, too young and too naïve. That was the day my life began, as an adult anyway. I knew that going into it, but nothing could prepare me for what I was about to experience.  I knew getting out of my hometown would be a significant change, but I also knew doing so would be an experience of a lifetime. One I most certainly did not want to miss.

The weeks leading up to the big move, I continued to be given countless phrases of advice, which played through my mind like a broken record. “You’re going to have to learn to fend for yourself. Mom and Dad won’t be there to help. You’re not right around the corner. Never mix white and colored laundry. Make sure you eat. Be social and get involved. Be respectful of your roommates. Clean your room. Go to class. Study hard. Don’t party on a week night. Use your time wisely. Drink responsibly. Be careful. Never walk alone at night. Stay together. Call home and don’t forget about us.” Tough love I suppose and little bits of truth.

My parents packed the car that Sunday morning as I sat on my bed teary eyed trying to find the words to sum up the previous eighteen years. I looked around my bedroom at what was left behind; countless trophies exemplifying the years I had dedicated to athletics, select photos of my best friends and family, clothes I had since outgrown and a few faded stuffed animals. Memories of my high school years flashed before my eyes. It wasn’t that long ago when I was the new girl stepping foot into my first day of 9th grade, where did the time go? I foolishly went to the wrong Homeroom and then managed to get lost finding my second period class. Later that day, in the cafeteria, I became acquainted with who would later become some of my best friendsThat was the beginning of several beautiful friendships. Countless slumber parties immediately preceded that first awkward encounter. Laughter, junk food and guy talk, that was the general gist of those all-nighters. In those moments we were young, innocent, and loved whole heartedly. I pulled myself together, enough to collect the last of my bags, I was ready to embark on the next chapter of my life. I took one last look around, at the blue walls reflecting off my polar bear white carpeting, and closed the door.

The next four hours were quiet, no one spoke much. I sat in the back seat with little to no room to move, squished between my entire wardrobe and the door. I put in my headphones and tried to block out my thoughts. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was feeling, probably a mixture of nerves and excitement. It took several hours to unload the car and situate everything in my 5th floor dorm room. We grabbed a quick lunch and shortly after that my parents were back on I95 heading South. The first few weeks and even months were a major adjustment. One I had expected and even prepared myself for, but what I could have never known was how moving home would be an even bigger one.

Four years of college came and went. Four of the best years of my life. I gained a couple lifelong friends, experienced some tough life lessons and established a sense of independence. But most importantly, I grew up. I think that was the part that caught me off guard. We spend our entire life growing. Each and every day we’re growing older, growing wiser. When we’re living in the same town, with the same friends surrounded by constant familiarity, we sometimes miss it. We don’t notice the change in day to day life.

The first time I walked back into that blue walled, polar bear white carpeted room with my twin size bed, it felt surreal. Appearance wise it looked the same, but to me, it felt much smaller. Picture frames quickly filled the tops of my dressers, this time with new faces. To me, those faces were familiar, but to others they were merely strangers. I tried to reacquaint myself with old friends, all the while keeping up with the new. In my mind, I pictured us as those same innocent teenagers, when in reality we each had grown and matured separately into independent young adults. We were no longer those young, naïve and careless teenagers. We each had experienced four years worth of life without the other. Four unexplainable years, I for one could not put into words.

I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting. Maybe I expected everything to remain the same. Like we would pick right back up where we left off. I guess a part of me hoped life had stood still during my absence. Although I knew this was silly and impossible, I was still hopeful. I quickly realized life had gone on for everyone, and at times I felt like I was being thrown back into it mid-run. No time to catch up or find exactly where I belong. My college friends were like family but my high school friends were home, comfort and familiarity. They are my childhood, something I can never share with anyone else. It took a while to regain that same level of friendship we had previously shared. Where do they fit? Where do we begin? How do I find balance?

Finding balance was tough. Not just with friends, but with family as well. College was time for me to make my own rational decisions, completely on my own. The previous years of rules, common curiosity and self respect my parents had instilled in me, were now entirely on my shoulders.  What kind of person did I want to be? I now had four years of independence. Maybe too much independence, but such is life. I always said ‘there is something to be said about being eighteen and entirely on your own’. That was my time to grow into my own being without being watched every step of the way. It was my time to be smart and do the right thing. I may have gotten a little too comfortable with the independence part of it. The coming and going as I pleased part anyway. I was now back in my parents’ house and with that came their rules. Sure I was given more responsibility and more independence with age, but that did not qualify as the same amount of independence I incurred during my four years at college. At first this was hard for me and a rather large adjustment. Not so much that I couldn’t do what I wanted when I wanted, but that everything was questioned. “Where are you going? Who are you with? When will you be home?” The phrases I heard endlessly when I was younger were suddenly returning. I felt restricted, young and confused.

I have since learned a lot about myself and realized these adjustments, although may have seemed extreme in that moment, were crucial. These are the moments I will cherish and be thankful for in the future. I have since gained a better understanding of balance in every aspect possible. If I have learned anything, it would be people come and go. Not everyone is meant to be a part of your life forever. Each person enters our life to teach us a lesson. Good lesson or bad lesson, it’s still a lesson and we continue to grow and learn from it. My friendships have grown stronger and have since become more real. My parents and I, although always remained strong, have regained a positive relationship and have since been able to find a common, mutual ground in which I respect their home and their wishes, all while they allow me the privacy and space I enjoy. In the end everything always turns out the way it should.

Sometimes we need a little insight, to see a situation from a different perspective in order to better understand its importance. Never get stuck in the past or question what is right around the corner. We fear change, especially in a scenario where everything has always remained the same. It is important that we allow our surroundings to adapt and grow with ourselves. If I have learned anything it would be, somethings never actually change, we just see them differently.

nothing lasts forever

1 Oct

life goes on

If there is anything I have learned throughout my almost 25 years of living, it would be life goes on and just as undoubtedly true, nothing lasts forever.  I’ve heard these two phrases countless times, used interchangeably and I can’t think of anything with more truth. “Everything in life is temporary. If things are going good, enjoy it cause it won’t last forever. If things are going bad, don’t worry cause it can’t last forever either.”

It is almost refreshing to know that time stops for no one, that even the most unbearable of times will one day pass. It’s almost like when we’re going through a tough time and we manage to find that small amount of hope, sometimes that’s all it takes. Like when we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. One day we wake up and realize today is better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than todayOne day at a time. One foot in front of the other. During these moments we’re grateful nothing lasts forever and we’re hopeful for the day the fuzziness goes away and we can see more clearly. With every sunrise we continue to move forward and we are one step closer to the day we can say “we made it”.

Consequently, sure, there are moments we wish we could stophit the pause button on the remote, just freeze and relive that moment over and over again. Throughout these blissful times of life, I have a tendency to think that it is rather unfortunate that even the magical moments shall too pass. It’s like when you get to the last chapter of your favorite book. You feel a connection with the characters, almost like a bond and you are sad to see them go. In life, we also experience the end of chapters, the closing of a book. “When one door closes another one opens.” We experience a mix of emotions all the while not knowing what to expect. We brace ourselves for the uncertainty of what lies ahead, we take a deep breath, hope for the best and move forward with an open mind and an open heart.

It’s okay to be happy and it’s okay to be sad. Just remember that neither one lasts forever.

lifes moments

28 Sep

Life is made up of a great deal of tiny, sometimes even mmemoryicroscopic moments, each making up a larger picture. More often than not, these moments are taken for granted, overlooked, lessened and later diminished into a faint distant memory. Never too return again. Never in the same light anyway. Sure we have the memories, sometimes we may even try to relive them, but we will never be as young, or as wise or careless or as happy or sad as we were at that very instant. Embrace each day and live entirely in the moment of now. Don’t worry about about yesterday or stress over tomorrow. In a blink a moment passes. Days become weeks, weeks turn into months and before you know it, a year has passed. Time blends together, we move on to the next chapter of our lives and all we have left are the memories. Make them worth remembering.