Thursday, December 29, 2011

home is where the heart is.

(let's just pretend that this picture also has a heart about 80 miles south, okay?)

Perhaps my father said it best:
"So, it's not that you don't like Boston, 
but it's not home." 


And this week has been exactly what I needed.

I'm still figuring out a lot of things about myself, about where my heart is, and about where I'm supposed to be after this year of JVC is over. And right now, my heart is so wrapped up in Casserly, the people I work with, my housemates, and this whole experience that sometimes it's hard to find a larger perspective.

But--and this is really important--while I am undoubtedly certain that I belong in Boston this year, my heart belonged here first. Way before I memorized the route of the Orange Line and the streets of Jamaica Plain, I loved these country roads. And I will always belong here in a way that is best summed up by old country songs on the radio. 

And that's a good reminder.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

it's beginning to look a lot like christmas.

"celebrate me home" by kenny loggins; it's been on repeat for the last few weeks.

It was Christmas today at Casserly House--and it was perfect. Okay, I'm lying. It wasn't perfect, but it was exactly what I needed... and that kind of makes it perfect.

People who know me well know that I love Christmas. However, twenty-four hours ago, I was honestly dreading today. As per Casserly House tradition, we had both a Christmas party with the morning ESOL students, then another party for the After School kids. Preparing for all of this has been crazy, and I was just really tired. Frankly, I was not really happy with the Thanksgiving prayer service/party I planned, and I was dreading this afternoon in fears that it would be more of the same. Part of me was just ready to throw in the towel and head home to Missouri for ten days.

However, today was wonderful. It wasn't perfect, but there were a lot of really wonderful, beautiful moments in the midst of the craziness, like eating food the morning ESOL students brought in from their home countries and singing Christmas carols with them. In the end, it all worked out; the kids party went really well--way better than I could have hoped--and I just felt so happy, so thankful, so (cheesy as it is) full of Christmas cheer.

It's days like today that remind me of why I'm here, why I love it, and why it's so important. It's these memories that are going to make getting on another plane to come back to Boston in ten days to tackle the rest of this year that much easier.

Tomorrow night at this time, I will most likely be on the way home from the airport with my parents. I already plan on listening to playlist of Christmas music with titles involving the word "home" for most of the way, with a side of this and this, and my suitcase is packed and ready.

Missouri, you're calling my name tonight, but it's nice to be reminded of the reasons Boston has carved out such a place in my heart.

Monday, December 19, 2011

crunch time.

It's crunch time in Boston--on so many levels. The past few weeks have been crazy busy with preparing for Christmas and all that entails at Casserly House, grad school applications, my own personal Christmas preparations, community commitments, and so on and so forth. Don't get me wrong--a lot of these things have been fun and wonderful--but I am looking forward to life calming down a bit.

However, after two and half more days of work, I get to board a plane bound for St. Louis (well, for Baltimore first, then St. Louis!). I could not be more excited. It's been a wonderful first four months in this city, but it's also been a long time since I've been home. Since I've really seen the stars. Since I've slept in my own bed. Since I've been surrounded by my family and best friends. Since I've been around people who appreciate the state of Missouri the way I do. (This is when I am tempted to begin calling Missouri "God's country"... but I'm not there yet, no worries.)

I mentioned this briefly in my last point, but the honeymoon phase of JVC is definitely over. Boston's not as new as it used to be. Not that I'm necessarily disenchanted with it--especially when we've had the second warmest November on record!--but it certainly seems smaller now than it did back in August... or at least, it feels different. (Let's not talk about the irony of a girl from a town of 8,000 calling a metropolitan area of 4.5 million "small.")

(Side note: people keep asking how I feel about Boston, life on the East Coast, etc. Let's just say that I have a lot of thoughts on this city and life on the East coast--both good and bad--that I am purposely not going to delve into at the moment. We'll save that for later.)

Needless to say though, I'm ready to be home... at least for 10 days. Now, if I can just make it through the next two and a half...!

P.S. On an entirely different note--yet completely related at the same time--exactly two years ago today was my last day in Rome. That day is still one of my most cherished memories of all time. I don't think I could have imagined then where I would be today, and ironically, I'm thinking about a lot of the same things, as another trip home after months away approaches.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

just a small town girl.

One of my housemates recommended the book American Wife to me recently, and the following passage from it encapsulates so much of how I feel about Missouri and growing up in a small, Midwestern town. There are some things I love about the East Coast and especially Boston, but I think the Midwest will always be where I feel most like myself.
"Then we were back in Wisconsin, a place that in late summer is thrillingly beautiful. When I was young, this was knowledge shared by everyone around me; as an adult, I've never stopped being surprised by how few of the people with whom I interact have any true sense of the states between Pennsylvania and Colorado. Some of these people have even spent weeks and months working in such states, but unless they're midwesterners, too, to them the region is nothing but polling numbers and caucuses, towns or cities where they stay in hotels [...] 
Admittedly, the area possesses a certain dowdiness I personally have always found comforting, but to think of Wisconsin specifically or the Midwest as a whole as anything other than beautiful is to ignore the extraordinary power of the land. The lushness of the grass and trees in August, the roll of the hills (far less of the Midwest is flat than outsiders seem to imagine), that rich smell of soil, the evening sunlight over a field of wheat, or the crickets chirping at dusk on a residential street: All of it, it has always made me feel at peace. There is room to breathe, there is a realness of place. The seasons are extreme, but they pass and return, pass and return, and the world seems far steadier than it does from the vantage point of a coastal city. 
Certainly picturesque towns can be found in New England or California or the Pacific Northwest, but I can't shake the sense that they're too picturesque. On the East Coast, especially, these places--Princeton, New Jersey, say, or Farmington, Connecticut--seem to me aggressively quaint, unbecomingly smug, and even xenophobic, downright paranoid in their wariness of those who might someone infringe upon the local charm. I suspect this wariness is tied to the night cost of real estate, the fear that there might now be enough space or money and what there is both must be clung to and defended. The West Coast, I think, has a similar self-regard--all that talk of proximity to the ocean and the mountains--and a beauty that I can't help seeing as show-offy. But the Midwest: It is quietly lovely, not preening with the need to have its attributes remarked on. It is the place I am calmest and most myself."
--American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Monday, December 12, 2011

month four.

Month Four = officially 1/3 of the way through JVC.  Because I'm really tired, and this is already a day later, I'll say one thing for now: the honeymoon is definitely over (and more importantly, we all still like each other).

(And I'll say another thing just because I can: I think I'm as excited for Christmas break as the kids are, which is saying quite a lot.)

month four.

veteran's day = day off work/3 day weekend. too much grad school nonsense. watching harry potter 7: part 1 & 2. foley's for kateleigh's birthday. listening to meatloaf and skipping. st. c's. the aquarium.

happy birthday, kateleigh!

simmons info session. inspiration wall. thanksgiving prep at casserly. theology on tap + the occupy movement. analyzing ourselves. dating lessons. epic target and old navy trip. 75% off. pour house + people watching. bll nightcap's at foley's. more awkward realizations. st. c's. watching the town. spiritual direction at the arboretum.

spinach cheese casserole. casserly house thankgiving prayer service: we give thanks. most chaotic and stressful afternoon ever. thanksgiving dinner with peter. thanksgiving break (!!!). sleeping in. grad school apps. sweet potato, lentil, and spinach soup. lunch at women's lunch place. tamales. apple pie with dave and "the dave" at foley's. volunteering at wlp. sneaking in snacks to the descendents. "crazy friday nights" (but not really). roslindale christmas tree lighting. bromance. the purple shamrock. st. c's. "you just got pope-d." discovering pavement coffeehouse.

not actually our tree. or house.

nostalgia and freaking myself out. slow days at casserly. new volunteers. advent spirituality night. advent small group. seeing jim martin speak at bc. visiting st. stephen's + flour. second visit to pavement in a week. christmas decorating + cookie baking with sarah. advent mass.

vegetable pot pie. spirit animals. advent group. one-on-ones at jp licks. dinner at flour. holiday pops. philly prep. 12 hour car rides. philly cheese steaks & napping in abby's car. phillies navidad and all of the ridiculous that goes along with jvc parties. jvc reunions. dancing dancing dancing. dunkaccinos and angry drivers.

philly christmas party

Saturday, December 3, 2011

thanksgiving break.

... and a week later, I'm going to talk about my Thanksgiving in Boston.

I had a two day work week because of the holiday. Monday was a normal day, but Tuesday was Casserly House Thanksgiving. I was in charge of planning a Thanksgiving Prayer Service/Party for the kids in the afternoon. It was easily the most intense afternoon I have had so far at Casserly House, but I survived and they liked my cookies (chocolate chip, funfetti, and snickerdoodles -- would you expect anything less from me?).

While the afternoon was mildly chaotic, Tuesday morning with the ESOL students was incredibly touching; we did a craft where the students had to write down things that they were thankful for, and I absolutely loved being able to share this experience of gratitude with them. The opportunity to work with and get to know the ESOL students is one of the things I am most thankful for from this year, and ironically, a few of them actually put down that they were thankful for me (along with S. Nancy and the other teachers). That is still so weird to think about... Yes, I may be the one they call "teacher," but they are the ones who are really teaching me. Truly, I'm the one who is thankful.

Tuesday night, we had our official community Thanksgiving dinner with our Jesuit liaison, Peter. We went pretty traditional for the dinner (turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, biscuits, stuffing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie), and it was great to spend that time together.

Wednesday was pretty relaxed since I had the day off work. On Thursday, we went to Women's Lunch Place, where one of my housemates works, for Thanksgiving lunch. Our actual Thanksgiving dinner that night, however, was tamales Cristina's mom sent us all the way from LA! Mexican food for Thanksgiving may not be traditional, but it was certainly delicious.

After dinner, we watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, then meandered down to Foley's to pay a visit to Dave, our favorite bartender. He had hinted heavily the week before that apple pie was his favorite kind, so I baked one and we took it with us (full discretion: it's my favorite too). Foley's is something of a JVC Boston tradition, so it seemed only fitting that we spend our Thanksgiving there.

On Friday, we volunteered as a community for lunch at Women's Lunch Place. Women's Lunch Place is a completely different environment from where I work, and it was really wonderful to see where Abby works and to know more fully what her experience this year is like.

The rest of our long weekend was pretty relaxed. We went to a movie (The Descendants--pretty good!), watched some movies, went out on Saturday night, and I worked on grad school applications on Sunday.

All in all, Thanksgiving break was really nice, and while it was a little sad not being at home, it also just seemed fitting to spend this time with my community within the context of this year and our time together.

Monday, November 28, 2011

on boston + the idea of home.

For some reason, I always go back to the music that I loved sophomore year of high school; something about those songs resonates with me more and more as the year's pass. From The Postal Service's "I am a visitor here, I am not permanent" to Something Corporate's "I've never felt so lost, I've never felt so much at home," I still identify with that music. 

A friend from college and I were chatting texting recently (it's 2011 after all); she also moved to a new city this year where she didn't know anyone, similar to myself. She said something that I haven't been able to get out of my mind since: "I feel so temporary." 

That, friends, in a nutshell, is how I often feel these days. College also felt temporary, but not like this does. It's the classic existential crisis of not knowing where home is anymore. Is is Boston? St. Louis? The small town I grew up in? Or is it just Missouri/the Midwest, as I more generally say these days? However, part of me will always claim Rome as one of my homes, too. See, this is when it really gets complicated.

Today at Casserly House, I was chatting with one of the morning ESOL teachers. She asked about my Thanksgiving and how it was being away from home--or was Boston home now?

My answer? Boston... home? No, definitely, definitely not.

A housemate and I had a long conversation last night about, among other things, plans for life post-JVC and being homesick. She asked me how I felt about Boston now, and while I have a lot of thoughts about Boston, New England, and the East Coast and life outside of the Midwest in general, the first thing I thought was simply, "I need to go home."

Because I have yet to learn how to process my life without the context of home. And that's something I'm still trying to figure out.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

we give thanks.

thanksgiving hand turkeys by jvc boston

There's only a few minutes until the official start of Thankgiving, which I will be spending in Boston with 3/4's of my housemates (we'll miss you, KH!). It's a bit strange to not be spending this day in Missouri with my family, but I'll be there again in just a few weeks for Christmas, so I'm not too sad. Mostly, I'm just grateful: for this year, for the blessings I have known, and the people I'm privileged to know.

And on that note, here's a brief rundown of a few of the things I am most thankful for.

family + friends.
Your support has meant the world to me throughout the past year, from applying to JVC, to graduating college, and finally moving out to Boston and starting this year. Whether we're close to each other or far away, the fact remains that you all are one of the most visible ways that I can see God working in my life, and that says it all.

JVC. Casserly House. Casa Taj. Boston.
I don't think I can even attempt to express what these last few months have meant to me. I'm already forever grateful for the opportunity to learn to walk with these people, to explore this city, and to live with this wonderful group of women. I can't wait to see what will happen next.

SLU. (And let’s be real: Hump’s patio.)
Once a Billiken, always a Billiken. I will forever be grateful for the memories, opportunities, and mostly, the friendships I gained at SLU.

a roof over my head + food on the table every night.
I have never been more thankful for these two things than I am this year; it's a cliche thing to say on Thanksgiving, but I mean it wholeheartedly. Yes, I'm on a tight budget because of JVC, but every night I come home to cabinets full of food and a warm bed to sleep in, and that is so much more than many other people can say.

In many shapes and forms: family, friendships that feel like family, faith communities, Casserly, and so on and so forth.

education + the opportunities that come with it.
This is something I will never take for granted again after what I’ve witnessed these past few months.

Sleeping in on Saturday mornings. The smell of homemade bread. Finishing a good book. The crunch of fall leaves under my feet on my walk to work. Community dinners. Pumpkin beer.  Having my own bedroom for the first time since high school. Colored tights. Country music on the radio. A shower that never seems to run out of hot water. Long T rides to write in my journal.

unexpected kindness + generosity.
From students at Casserly, from strangers and people who are practically strangers, and from the people who love and know me best. 

home. (and the fact that I’ll be there again in a matter of weeks.)
As much as I love this whole experience, I am so, so grateful that December 22nd will find me back in Missouri. I miss my family, my friends, and being able to see the stars from my front porch steps.

and mostly--to, and for, God.
Who keeps surprising me in the best possible ways.

In short, I am grateful to be alive, to be healthy, and to be happy. I hope you spend this Thanksgiving with those you love and appreciating the blessings in your life.

P.S. Also, I am so very grateful for those of you who have been reading this little blog of mine. It means so much to me that even a few people have become invested in following along with my story. Truly, thank you.

Friday, November 18, 2011

poverty, joy, and everything in between.

So, I feel like I've been pretty quiet on this front lately, and it's certainly not because I don't have anything to say. In fact, I have so much to say that I don't really know where to begin.

However, because it's already late, I'll just leave you with a recent story from Casserly:

Earlier this week, S. Nancy was gifted 15 tickets to see a performance of the Nutcracker in Boston. She has been busy doling them out to the local girls in the neighborhood to go with their mother's.  A couple of days ago, she asked one of the girls, M., if she would be interested in going. This girl loves to dance, and we naturally expected her to be enthusiastic about the idea of going to the ballet.

However, M. strongly said, "NO,"  when asked, and when S. Nancy questioned her about why, this was her response. It broke my heart a little bit, and you'll see why:

"No. Because it's something I'll never to get to do, and I can't want things I can't have, because it's just too hard. It hurts too much."

This girl is in the fifth grade. She is barely into double digits, and she already practices self-denial as a form of self-protection because she doesn't know any other way to cope, to survive in this world.

I wish you could have seen the look on her face when S. Nancy told her she was going to get to go to the ballet for the first time--that she could have something she never dreamed possible.

These are the moments I hope to carry with me long after this year is over: both the deeply personal, powerful knowledge of what it is like to be poor and to deny yourself even the desire for something you think you will never be able to hold... as well as the look of joy on the face of a child whose world just got turned upside down in the best possible way.

Friday, November 11, 2011

month three.

Month three of JVC will be remembered as, among many other things, the month when I (finally) started taking more pictures. Also, for much fall-related celebrating, the Cardinal's winning the World Series, some milestones at Casserly (as well as my first work-related breakdown), and much more.

As of today, I'm 1/4 of the way through this year, and I can feel it. I'm nowhere close yet to the end, but I definitely think this is the end of the beginning. With more questions than ever in my mind, I'm hoping I can continue to embrace this experience with a spirit of openness in the coming months... and we'll see what comes out of it. Anyway, without any further rambling, here's some of my memories from the past few weeks:

spinach lasagna. the examin. a lesson about rice. challenges. cardinal's games. 375 at harvard yard. muddy jeans and destroyed flats. pumpkin spice-chai lattes from starbucks. awkward t rides. shorts and tights. spiritual direction at bc. boston book fair. reading at trident cafe. costello's tavern. apple picking. arboretum afternoons. mass at st. cecelia's.

more personality tests: infj. surprise parties at casserly. theology on tap. ricotta and spinach pie. 7-way google hangouts to watch the card's game with some of my favorite people. sandwiches at al's. head of the charles. jp lantern festival. cardinal's games at foley's. awkward realizations. st. cecelia's.

"being the boss" at casserly house. community time. funfetti cookies. lentil and potato pot pie. jvc recruiter visits. first snowflakes. most epic baseball game ever. sleep deprivation. regis halloween party. being nervous. 11 in '11 for the stl cardinals. sleeping in. snowtober. failed trips to newark for jvc halloween. mass by myself at st. cecelia's. finishing books at starbucks. vegetarian food festival. house pumpkin carving + photoshoots.

halloween. $2 burritos from chipotle and thrown-together cow costumes. the kitchen floor drama. mexican casserole (FINALLY). all saint's day. my life with the saints. a rough week at casserly asp. the runaway. nights in. apple cinnamon bread. saturday mornings at forest hills cemetery. flu shots. grad school apps at jp licks. foley's. falling back. st. cecelia's.

extreme highs and lows at casserly house. first work-related emotional breakdown. hand turkeys and being thankful. some of the best news ever for one of the esol students. pizza and a pint. kateleigh's birthday. 4 day week/3 day weekend (thankfully). a new favorite bookstore: brookline booksmith. 11/11/11 (!!!).

Monday, November 7, 2011

may you know that you are loved this day.

And then there are days at work that are terrible--not because my coworkers are frustrating, not because kids won’t listen and talk back, and not because I’m disappointed with my own performance.

No, there are days, afternoons, moments that are terrible because a fifth grade boy, in the middle of his homework, says, bluntly, that he thinks that God hates him.

And that’s when I realize in one overwhelming flood of emotion what I’m really up against this year. It’s not math homework and standardized tests. It’s a world that makes these kids think that they’re stupid, that they aren’t valuable, and that they aren’t loved; a world that's so discouraging and cold that a boy who has so much potential can't see a glimpse of it.

And those are the moments that I realize that the best thing I can do for these kids is just to love them. If they can walk out of this program on the last day of the school year and know that they were loved and valued at Casserly House, no matter what else happens, I'm calling this year a success.

Monday, October 31, 2011

own your slippers.

One of my goals for this year as a JV has always been to do a lot of reading. While I have only begun to scratch the surface so far of all of the books I want to read, my most recent book--Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese--provided a lot of wonderful food for thought. Here is one of my favorite passages from Cutting For Stone:
Ghosh was touched. He lay in the center, and we huddled on either side. Hema sat at the foot of our bed.

“In prison, lights were out by eight o’clock. We’d each tell a story. That was our entertainment. I told stories from the books we read to you in this room. One of my cell mates, a merchant, Tawfig—he would tell the Abu Kassem story.”

It was a tale well known to children all over Africa: Abu Kassem, a miserly Baghdad merchant, had held on to his battered, much repaired pair of slippers even though they were objects of derision. At last, even he couldn’t stomach the sight of them. But his every attempt to get rid of the slippers ended in disaster: when he tossed them out of his window they landed on the head of a pregnant woman who miscarried, and Abu Kassem was thrown in jail; when he dropped them in the canal, the slippers choked off the main drain and caused flooding, and off Abu Kassem went to jail…

“One night when Tawfig finished, another prisoner, a quiet, dignified old man said, ‘Abu Kassem might as well build a special room for his slippers. Why try to lose them? He’ll never escape.’ The old man laughed, and he seemed happy when he said that. That night the old man died in his sleep.


“The following night, we couldn’t wait to talk about Abu Kassem. We all saw it the same way. The old man was right. The slippers in the story mean that everything you see and do and touch, every seed you sow, or don’t sow, becomes part of your destiny…”


Ghosh sighed. “I hope one day you see this as clearly as I did in Kerchele. The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”
P.S. On a similar note, I'm newly obsessed with Good Reads, so if you care to see what I read over the course of this year, you can follow that here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

on community.

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” --Dorothy Day 
I haven't spoken much about the specifics of community life (ie. my four housemates) on this blog so far this year. That choice was intentional—not because we aren’t getting along— out of respect for the privacy of my community members. While I intend to continue on in that fashion for their sakes’ (it's one thing for me to spill details about my personal life on the internet, but it's another for me to make that choice for them), I also know that writing about my experience as a JV is incomplete if I do not address this rather large chunk of my life in Boston.

After all, community is one of the four values of JVC, and after the time I put in at Casserly House, the next biggest chunk of time of my time is spent in community. And to be blunt—I really, really love my community, and I am so happy that I get to spend the next year with them.

The emphasis that JVC places on community is actually one of the major reasons why I picked it over other service programs (well, and the fact that SLU taught me to love the Jesuits). College taught me about community on an entirely new level, and I knew that my experience doing a year of service wouldn't be complete without having other people to intentionally experience it with.

And on a practical level, the idea of moving to a new city where I didn't know anyone was incredibly intimidating. Already, after just a couple of months together, I can't imagine what this year would be like without them. I am so glad that I come home from my day at work to people who are ready and willing to be there for whatever I may need (and of course, I am here to reciprocate).

To address the obvious, we are a community of just women, which is not the case for most JV communities. Initially, I had mixed feelings about how that would work out; I think everyone assumes (falsely, and stupidly, if you ask me) that a house full of women is going to be full of drama, but I like that we have proved that stereotype wrong. Yes, in some ways we are stereotypically "girly" (ie. we borrow each other's nail polish and talk about things like shoes far more than we would if we were a co-ed community), but more importantly, I think it allows us to be able to bond on a different level (not better neccesarily--just different).

More importantly, however, the main reason why I think we have had such a positive experience so far as a community is that we were all clear from the beginning about what we wanted and needed from each other during this experience. And to put it bluntly, we all realize that we need each other to survive this year... because at the end of the day, no one else will understand like they will, what I've already been through and what I have yet to go through.

Community is a gift, and I hope that I don't get to the point where I take it for granted. Living with these women is such a visible confirmation of those words of Dorothy Day at the beginning of this post. This afternoon, I was re-reading part of my journal, and I came across a quote I had written down from Fr. Quinn, one of my favorite Jesuits from SLU, that also sums this idea up: "People are avenues of grace."

In short: I am so grateful for the blessings of community.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

living in the tension.

I’m at the point in the year when I’m beginning to feel faint tinges of homesickness, which is, of course, inevitable. I left Boston city limits for the first time since I arrived here in August this past Sunday to go apple picking with my housemates. Suddenly, I was surrounded by a landscape of rolling hills, fall leaves, and open skies like the one I grew up with. Times like that, I always miss home. It's difficult not to.

home: last fall break. 

If it's not that, it's text messages from friends saying that they're at Cafe Ventana or the bars around SLU, reminding me of other places I love. It's hanging out on Google+ with seven of my best friends while we watch Cardinal's world series games in seven different cities; it's the fact that we have to resort to technology to be together now, instead of just walking across campus. It's seeing the Arch on TV instead of from my bedroom window. It's going to church on Sunday mornings and missing 9pm mass at College Church.  I love home, and I miss home. That's undeniable.

However, on the other hand, it's already difficult to imagine my life before JVC, when all of this was just an abstract idea. When I'd never set foot in Boston, Massaschusetts but knew somehow that I was going to live here for a year. When the faces of Casserly House were just images on a computer screen instead of living, breathing people full of determination and curiosity with amazing stories to tell. When my walk to work was just an image on Google Maps instead of my daily routine. When my housemates were just email addresses and one paragraph bio's on a a mailing from JVC. That all already feels like a very, very long time ago. I suppose that speaks to how much this experience has already begun to shape me. I already can't imagine life without all of this.

apple picking this fall.

There's a tension in all of this, between what I've loved and and what I'm learning to love. And that's something I've been wrestling with: the question of how I'm going to take this experience as a JV and integrate it into the larger scale of my life. It's a challenge to let this experience impact all situations of my life--not just when it's convienent.

Last Sunday, the pastor at St. Cecelia's (a place I really am learning to love, even though I will always miss College Church) closed the mass with a line about wrestling with the Gospel, and I think that truth is so key for our lives. Life is messy. Faith is just as messy. But if I truly believe the idea of "finding God in all things," I know that He's there in the midst of all of that. To see God in black and white--to see our messy realities in black and white--is something I think we are often tempted to do, but it's oversimplification at it's worst. Part of what I'm trying to do this year is live in the tension, the messiness, the chaos, and the confusion, simply because I know that's where I see God do the most work; I know that's where I'm called to be as I figure out how where I've been impacts where I'm going.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

month two.

Month one went fast, but month two was faster. I can't believe I'm already writing this post. Month one was all about transition; month two was about settling in.

During the beginning of the past month, I met with a spiritual director for the first time in Boston. As part of our session, she suggested that I spent the time until our next meeting reflecting on a scripture passage, specifically this passage and the question, "What are you looking for?" I've had the passage running through my mind ever since, and thus am using it to sort my experiences for the past month.

they heard Him speak.
first day/week of after school program. meeting and loving the kids. saying goodbye to eileen. conquering dried beans. bean burritos. greek festival. free concert at the esplanade. jp licks. meeting my spiritual director. john 1:35-39. mass at st. ignatius and young adult group meet and greet.

why yes, that is jvc spelled out in cheese it's.

and they followed Him.
first red sox game. ridiculous questions. wonderful students. two boxes from mom. spaghetti with tomato sauce. modern family. birthday suits. an hour wait at a bus stop. theology on tap. the beginning of fall. realizations. running the esol program by myself and teaching two classes at the same time. baking red velvet cupcakes. cristina's birthday. portland and hartford visits. jvc fenway fundraiser. open bar. thirty baseballs. foleys with portland and general ridiculousness. mass at the paulist center.

jvc fenway fundraiser.

and He said to them, "what are you looking for?"
teaching, teaching, teaching. busy schedules. creamy spinach pasta. getting hit by a bike. black bean soup + cornbread. glee and the biggest "small" calzone i've ever seen. running casserly house by myself for real. parent's visit. freedom trail. sam adams at sam adam's grave. north end pastries. breakfast at a greek restaurant. local food festival. exploring jp + forest hills. cardinal's game at foley's. failed mad men parties. mass (and dogs!) at st. cecelia's. oktoberfest in harvard square. parker house hotel. lots of wandering and a couple "see you later's."

with my parents at the public garden.
arnold arboretum.

"come, and you will see."
a long, tiring week. casserly house board meeting. baked potato soup + irish soda bread. nights in. red october and lots of time on gameday. arboretum tour [photo to the left taken at the arborteum]. journal writing. self-care. baking more bread. greek festival: take two. magner's at galway house. st. cecelia's. community day at the public garden. mission statements and diads. zumba on the balcony. new (to me) mattress. hillary's arrival. day of reflection at the jes res. community as a gift (because it is). one-on-one at jp licks. pc visit to casserly house. community night playing spoons.

community day at the public garden.

Friday, October 7, 2011

working for the weekend.

It's gorgeous in Boston this afternoon. (Gorgeous just so happens to be one of the words I taught my ESOL students this morning.) And it looks like the rest of the weekend is shaping up to be just a wonderful.

It's already hard to believe that just a week ago my parents were here in Boston. We had a wonderful few days together.

They flew in Friday morning, and I was able to meet up with them after a half day of work. Their hotel was located near the Prudential Center, and after I dropped some things off, we started walking, and walking, and walking... to Copley Square, where we checked out the Boston Public Libary; to Boston Common, where we picked up the Freedom Trail; to Sam Adam's grave, where we decided it would be appropriate to drink a Sam Adams at the bar across the street; to the North End, where our wandering ended as we enjoyed an evening of Italian food, pastries, and gelato. We then decided to take the T back to their hotel.

I spent the night at the hotel that night, and honestly, it was a little bit weird to spend the night away from our house/community. I haven't done that since moving to Boston. My parents and I ate breakfast together on Saturday, then headed to the Boston Local Food Festival. The Local Food Festival was a lot of fun, and it was great to see so many passionate people about good, local food!

After the food festival, we headed back to my neck of the woods in Jamaica Plain so my mom could see our house/neighborhood. We spent the rest of the day in JP, and I gave them a house tour and showed them Forest Hills Cemetary (one of my favorite places in this entire city). They were also able to meet up with most of roommates who met us at Foley's where we ate pizza and watched the Cardinal's game.

On Sunday, we headed north to Harvard Square in Cambridge, where there was an Oktoberfest celebration going on. While not at all authentic, it was still a lot of fun. We spent the rest of the day wandering around Boston and doing things like eating at the Parker House Hotel (originator of Boston Cream Pie & Parker House Rolls, as well as the place where JFK proposed to Jackie O) and taking touristy pictures outside of the Cheers bar. Eventually, we had to say goodbye, and they headed back to Missouri in the morning.

It was wonderful to have my parents here and show them pieces of my life in Boston. I miss them already. As much as I love Boston and JVC, the hardest part about it is being away from my family. (Closely followed by being away from friends.) I can't wait to see them again.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

this is my life.

I spent 12 straight hours at Casserly House today because of our board meeting this evening. While that sounds somewhat exhausting (and I admit, sort of was), I also had this really beautiful moment in the midst of the craziness of the after school program. Suddenly, it just hit me that this is really it. This is my life now: Casserly House, JVC, Boston. This is real life; this is my life. And I couldn't stop smiling.

As this year goes on, I know that I will have many difficult moments; in many ways, that is a reality of choosing to do this program. The struggle is part of the process, and it's supposed to be that way. But at the end of the day, I know without a doubt that this is where I'm supposed to be. I honestly can't imagine being anywhere else for this year.

I know that these moments of clarity are going to be part of what pulls me through this year. These are rare, beautiful moments when for two seconds everything falls in place and I am able to see past the mundane--past the three kids yelling my name, past the endless to do list's, past the little luxuries I'm learning to do without--to see a glimpse of what is real and wonderful about this work I am privileged to do everyday.

One of my favorite quotes (it's actually on the sidebar of this blog) sums up a lot of how I feel about life and this experience, so I'm going to post it again, just because I think it is applicable to the situations that a lot of us find ourselves in: 
"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it." --Roald Dahl

Friday, September 30, 2011

the power of words.

Fittingly, one of the ESOL teachers from Casserly House passed a book onto me called The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way.

The following quote sums up why teaching and learning English as a Second or Other Language is so difficult.
"But perhaps the single most notable characteristic of English--for better and worse--is its deceptive complexity. Nothing in English is ever quite what it seems. [...] As native speakers, we seldom stop to think just how complicated and illogical English is. Every day we use countless words and expressions without thinking about them--often without the faintest idea of what they really describe or signify. What, for instance, is the hem in hem and haw, the shrift in short shrift, the fell in one fell swoop? When you are overwhelmed, where is the whelm that you are over, and what exactly does it look like? And why, come to that, can we be overwhelmed or underwhelmed, but not semiwhelmed or--if our feelings are less pronounced--just whelmed? Why do we say colonel as if it had an r in it? Why do we spell four with a u and forty without?"

Seriously though, I think about the English language on a more complex level everyday now at work than I ever did as a formal English minor in college. Now, isn't that ironic?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

some recent adventures.

I'm gonna try to keep this short for two reasons: a) I have been low on sleep all week and b) I am currently watching the Cardinal's game on It's funny how I probably wouldn't have bothered to watch it if I had still been in STL, but being in the midst of so many Red Sox fans has made me more passionate about the Card's than ever before. But that's another story.

Here's a quick rundown of why I've been low on sleep for the past week and half...
The weekend before last was somewhat low key, but it did involve an epic day where I went to a Greek festival, saw a free concert (Sara Bareilles was fantastic! and who would have thought that Grace Potter wasn't a folk singer judging off of her song with Kenny Chesney?), and ate some ice cream at JP Lick's. I also met with my spiritual director for this year for the first time last Sunday, which was wonderful, but that is probably another topic I will delve into at a later date.

 greek festival

Then, on Tuesday, three members of my community and I were able to go to the Red Sox game at Fenway Park. For free! One of my housemates got tickets through her job, and we turned into an impromptu community night. The game itself was a lot of fun, and we had great weather. Also, despite my Red Sox bashing earlier, I have to admit that Fenway Park, while tiny compared to Busch Stadium, has a lot of character/history.

fenway park

Thursday night, we headed to the Green Briar Pub for Theology on Tap. We had a bit of an adventure getting there (it involved an hour waiting for one bus), but once we arrived, I really enjoyed the night! (For those of you unfamiliar with the model, you can read a bit about it here.)

This past weekend was also memorable for a variety of reasons. JVC hosted this big, fancy fundraiser at Fenway Park (again!) on Saturday night that our community was invited to, as well as the JV communities in Portland, Maine and Hartford, Connecticut. Portland also stayed with us on Saturday night. It was wonderful to be reunited with other JVs for the first time since orientation and to catch up with some of them.  Saturday was also my housemate Cristina's birthday, so our house, as well as Portland, and a few FJVs headed to Foley's after the fundraiser to celebrate. (I just realized that I have never explained Foley's and am horrified, but it deserves it's own post.)
one of our community photos. i'm the short one.

Then, it was back to work on Monday, and it's been a busy, busy week at Casserly House, as always, where I've been staying up too late for no reason. And then you know, today I got run into by a bike. I am fine, just already starting to show bruises. Typical, right?

As exciting as all of these recent events have been, I have to admit that I'm far more excited about what's on the agenda for this weekend: my parents are coming to Boston! They arrive Friday morning for a long weekend, and I am so excited to see them and spend the weekend together.

P.S. I am not capable of writing anything short, as evidenced by this post.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

back to school.

This year, for the first time in a long time, I'm not spending this fall as a student in the traditional, academic sense.  Instead, I've shifted roles to being the one teaching, supervising, coordinating, and tutoring. It's been an interesting transition to say the least, but as my semester in Rome taught me, the real learning in life often takes place outside of the classroom--or in my case with Casserly House, on the other side of the classroom.

And to say that I'm learning a lot would be an understatement. Some things are deceptively simple--the names and ages and grades and birthdays of my students--while others are much more complex. Although the simple things are important and not to be underestimated (have you ever forgotten a 9-year-old's birthday? it's no laughing matter), it's the complex things that I've been wrestling with.

The after school program began this past Monday, and I've finally been able to spend my time focused on what I signed up for when I agreed to do JVC. Over this past week, the hour and a half from 3:30-5:00 has become the most intense part of my day, as I spend my time running around... usually trying to do five things at once. While there's a lot of the mundane involved in that work, there's also a lot of food for thought.

One of the most interesting faucets of my work is how much it brings the reality of statistics home to me. Catholic Charities of St. Louis had this really great ad campaign over the past few years that featured pictures of easily stereotyped individuals, with taglines such as, "He's not a statistic; he's someone's big brother." These ads were actually quite powerful, and I feel like my work at Casserly House has had the same effect in bringing a lot of lofty ideas down to a personal level for me.

It's one thing to know on an intellectual level that urban youth have a lot of problems to deal with, and it's another situation entirely to know intimately what these kids are up against--that these third graders wrestle with more serious issues on a daily basis than I've ever dealt with in my privileged life. (Privilege is such a JVC-esque word that I almost feel cliche using it, but it's also very, very true.) 

Hearing statistics about the failures of the American educational system, students dropping out of school, neighborhood violence, and domestic violence only has a limited impact, but that can't be said about seeing that these are the realities that many of the children that I work with live with every day. I can put names and faces on these problems now in a way that I couldn't before. (I also do want to clarify that it is important to note that these problems are not ones that are unique to urban areas; that's just the framework I'm currently working from.)

I have also struggled with wrapping my head around the idea that what I'm doing at Casserly House is so much more than just a job in the traditional sense; in someways, it certainly is. I show up from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, and Casserly House provides me with health insurance and the means to pay my bills; basically, I get compensated for my work and time. And it's simple to then conclude that what I'm doing is just a job, that it's just a way to get a paycheck, it's just how I spend my time between the weekends. But, frankly, it's not just a job. It's so much more, and that was the real point of choosing to do JVC. 

I'm also learning a lot of practical things--how to write professional emails (tell me, how do you sign yours? currently, I've settled on "Best, Megan"), how to multitask like it's my job (oh wait, it kind of is), how to outsmart an elementary school kid, and how to be in five places at once... yeah, still working on that one.

So, in short, not going back to school is turning out to be one of the biggest learning experiences I've ever had. After so many years of focusing on academics in the traditional sense, I have to admit that it's refreshing to finally see learning in a more practical way.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

i set out upon a journey.

"All stories, they say, begin in one of two ways: 'A stranger came to town,' or else, 'I set out upon a journey.' The rest is all just metaphor and simile."
--Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
The above quote from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle isn't really reflective of the subject matter of the book in the slightest, but as I read it tonight, it resonated with me about how I feel about this year and what this experience means to me.

(Also, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a fantastic read for anyone interested in questions concerning where we get our food, eating locally/seasonally/organically, etc. And it's fun to read as well.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

month one.

It's hard to believe that it was just a month ago that I boarded a plane in St. Louis to head to JVC orientation. I can't believe I've only known my housemates for a month, that I had never seen this city a month ago. And at the same time... I can't believe that one month of my year-long adventure as a JV is already over. I don't know where the time went. I can't wait to see what the rest of this year holds.

month one: a recap

jvc northeast '11-'12.

bleary-eyed goodbyes and flight out of lambert at 6am. waiting in the airport with a fellow billiken. meeting two housemates at the airport. meeting two more at orientation icebreakers. realizing that there was no 6th roommate, and that therefore we would all have our own rooms. some awkward conversations. meeting so many wonderful people from all over the country. sharing our lifelines. the beautiful hills of blue ridge, pennsylvania. the four values. four hours of silence. starting to realize what a wonderful, crazy year i was in for. talent show performances. the first round of goodbye's. passover remembered to send us off.

local orientation.
hanging out at bwi with the portland community. flying to boston. freaking out a little at the airport. getting picked up by fjvs and beginning to realize the extent of the fjv network in boston. meeting maria. first dinner and first sam adam (for me at least).  trips to target. electricity problems/mice. sam adam's factory. kickin' it in jp. jamaica pond, jp licks, thrift stores. boston common, freedom trail, quincy market. placement tours. our first foley's visit. jacob wurth's. papa's visit.  meeting dave, infamous bartender of foley's. mass at st. cecelia's and a bar-b-que. first grocery shopping trip. cleaning. rearranging my bedroom. getting settled in, just in time for...

and the real work begins: week one.
first day of work. teaching ESOL classes but mostly learning. maggie's birthday dinner. free pumpkin beer from an fjv on a tuesday night. dinner with peter, our jesuit liaison. walks to work. meeting the kids, little by little. learning the faces and names of casserly house. getting the internet. first community night (pumpkin beer on the balcony). runs around the neighborhood. discovering the forest hills cemetery. nights out with fjv's. st. anthony's festival in the north end. surviving (and enjoying) my first hurricane.  

boston community at the sam adams factory.

work: week two.
my first spirituality night. a disastrous meal. beginning to really explore boston. packing lunches. learning, growing, & pushing myself at work. planing for the after school program. first community night with matt and sarah. visits to back bay, newbury street, the freedom trail, the north end, and lots of bookstores. labor day weekend. wandering around jp and hanging out at doyle's. getting a boston library card. a night at foley's (one of the many we will have this year). mass with peter at st. ignatius + brunch. harpoon brewery tour and a visit to the other foley's (not as good as ours). 

work: week three.
emails, emails, emails. after school program registration & meeting the parents, but most importantly, meeting the kids i will get to spend the next year with. spirituality via meditation. a week of gloomy, rainy weather. "the honeymoon is over." my first venture across the charles to cambridge. beginning to realize what kind of weather i'm in for this year. the five love languages. a beautiful weekend. touring somerville and cambridge via mass ave. falling asleep during movies. saturday morning farmer's markets. free crepes. the cambridge carnival international festival. an fjv potluck (and another visit to foley's). mass at st. cecelia's. sowa open market on a sunday afternoon. party planning. freaking out about my computer and the first day of the after school program.

view of downtown boston from the harbor.

And a whole lot more. And a whole lot more to come (11 months to be exact).

p.s. This was intended to be posted last night (I left St. Louis on August 11th), but the aforementioned computer issues prohibited that. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

learning + exploring boston.

 photo via | I see these everyday.

So, I've been a little quiet on this front for the past week and half, but that's because most of the writing I've been doing has been on the T while I've been wandering around exploring Boston (and enjoying public transit!).

Just walking around cities and visiting new neighborhoods is one of my favorite things to do, so I've spent the last few weeks taking advantage of my current work schedule and using my afternoons to explore Boston. (Until the after school program starts, my working hours are 8-3; after it starts, they will change to 9-5:30.) Since I moved here a few weeks ago, I feel like I've seen a decent amount of the city, but there's still so much to do!

(And speaking of my job, a quick update: work is full of up's and down's; I have really frustrating moments and really amazing moments when everything falls into place and I understand why I'm there... usually within the span of a few hours. Overall, it's good--just an adjustment. Let's just say that I have lot of learning and growing to do over the next year.)

For the first week of my exploring, I mainly focused on my surrounding neighborhood in Jamaica Plain. First, I became obsessed with the Forest Hills Cemetery (which is more of a park than a cemetery, and not creepy at all). Then, I moved on to Roslindale (the neighborhood just south of JP  where Casserly House is also located), which has a really fun/cute downtown area with lots of local shops/restaurants/thrift stores.

Then, I boarded the "T" (subway) and made my way downtown.

T map: I live on the orange line.

A few of my adventures so far...
At this point, I have walked the majority of the Freedom Trail and have therefore seen some of Boston's most historical sights, including but not limited to: Boston Common, Beacon Hill and surrounding areas, the original Cheer's bar, Sam Adam's and Paul Revere's graves, and so forth.

Unsurprisingly, I also spent a good amount of time in Boston's North End, which has historically been the Italian neighborhood. I bought a cannoli at Modern Pastry (my sources tell me that it's better than the more touristy Mike's). I did a lot of wandering down Hanover Street, admired all of the other Italian restaurants, and checked out some more historical sights. Last Friday afternoon, I also visited the Haymarket, which is a really big, cheap farmer's market near the North End.

One of my other favorite neighborhoods so far as been Back Bay and Copley Square, which is home of the main branch of the Boston Public Library (I have a card now!).  Then, I walked down Newbury Street (Boston's main shopping street) and down to the Charles River.

image via | this is actually really helpful for understanding the different neighborhoods.

Yesterday, I ventured across north of the Charles River for the first time to explore Cambridge--mainly Harvard Square and Harvard Yard. I wasn't there for very long, but Harvard is so beautiful! Definitely an amazing campus. Cambridge itself is really cool as well; there were lots of neat shops and just good people watching.

I have also been doing a bit of a bookstore tour of Boston. Essentially, if I pass a bookstore, I go in. I've probably been in at least ten so far, but my favorite one, which I just went to yesterday for the first time, has been Harvard Book Store.

Soooo, in a nutshell, there's a really brief summary of some of the adventures that I've gone on in Boston so far. In general, I really like Boston as a city; it's very neighborhood-y, which makes it all the more suited for adventures like these. It also means that there's always something new to discover.  Physically speaking, Boston really isn't a very big, so it makes it much more manageable. It's also very walking and public transportation friendly, which I love. I'm really glad that my work schedule has allowed me the opportunity to  see so much of the city over the past few weeks.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

hunkering down for a hurricane.

 photo via

I moved to Massachusetts expecting beautiful falls, mild (for me) summers, and long, snowy winters. What I did not expect, however, was hurricanes. Or rather, one particular hurricane named Irene that has been ravening the East coast for the past few days (just in case you were living under a rock).

Despite the initial predictions and all of the resulting hoopla, we survived today with only mild inconveniences. Yesterday afternoon, we stocked up on groceries, batteries, and jugs of bottled water. Our supplies and precautions were unneeded, but it was still good to have them.

The hurricane did provide us with a couple of rather windy, rainy days, which was a good chance for all of us to stay in the house and have some good community time. After going out Friday night to St. Anthony's Festival and some local bars with a few FJV's, I spent the rest of the weekend just hanging around the house. We did not go to church this morning (apparently, Boston's archbishop excused us--thanks!), and instead made a leisurely breakfast of pancakes and scrambled eggs. I spent the rest of the day working on decorating my room (finally there are pictures up on the walls!) and baking a loaf of whole wheat French bread, among other things.

The past few weeks have been a crazy blur, as we went from regional orientation to local orientation to beginning (and completing) our first week of work. Honestly, even though my original plans for the weekend included wandering around and exploring half of Boston, after being forced to spend the past two days inside our house, I'm actually really thankful. Instead of continually pushing myself, it was a good way to relax and mentally recharge. 

I guess the hurricane can been seen as another example of the differences between God's timing and my own; when I want to keep rushing, keep doing, God whispers to me to slow down, to take a moment (or a weekend) to just be exactly where I am. And that's one of things this year is about, right? Simple living and learning to appreciate what I have been given... one natural disaster at a time.

Friday, August 26, 2011

casserly house: practically speaking, what i'm doing this year & why it matters.

"People come here, and they're pretty broken. Sometimes, they walk in and their head's hanging down. But, when they leave here, they walk out with their heads held high."

(Casserly House)

I finished my first week of work at Casserly House today, and I cannot express how wonderful of a place it is. I am going to attempt to explain a little bit about the program and what I'll be doing over the next year in this post to provide people with a little bit of background, but it's really hard to put how amazing it truly is into words.

Here's a brief overview of the program and what it's about:
Casserly House was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston as a part of the congregation's 125th anniversary celebrations. Modeled after the work of the first Sisters of St. Joseph, Casserly House was created to be a ministry of presence in a culturally and ethnically mixed neighborhood populated by a large number of new immigrants. In 2000, the Sisters purchased a triple-decker house at 42 Stellman Road, in the Forest Hills section of Roslindale, and it has since provided a space for both service and residence. Three sisters live on the top two floors of the house, and neighborhood programs are run out of the first floor.

Casserly House has two main programs. Monday through Friday from 9 am to 12 pm, English language and literacy classes are provided for adults living in the neighborhood. We currently have 46 students from 16 different countries! On Monday through Thursday from 3pm-5pm, 15 neighborhood children in 2nd-5th grade come for the After-School Program, which provides homework help and tutoring. In July, we have a two-week Summer Learning Camp with a focus on reading, computers, and art. Along with these programs, we also provide a location for neighborhood gatherings, meetings, and prayer.
So, in a nutshell, that's what we goes on at Casserly House. The center has a small staff, basically just Sr. Nancy (the director), me, and Jim (an Ignatian Volunteer), as well as a lot of volunteers, so I'll have quite a bit of responsibility over the upcoming year. My main job is coordinating and overseeing the after school program, but I have also been assisting with (and teaching!) the ESOL classes, writing thank you notes, and lots of other random tasks. The after school program won't begin for a few more weeks because Boston public schools are still on summer break until after Labor Day, so I have been preparing for that as well.

That's what we do as the staff, but it's the students who come in for the programs that make Casserly House such a wonderful place. The ESOL students at Casserly House have continually amazed me with their courage, their determination, and their kindness. The diversity of the program is astounding; there are students from Haiti, Cameroon, Vietnam, Somalia, Costa Rica, Guatamala, Iraq, Albania, and even more countries. It's beautiful to see the amount of learning and sharing that goes on on a day to day basis.

This afternoon, I listened to a middle-aged woman from Haiti read who had never been to school before she came to Casserly House, who couldn't even write her own name a few years ago. These are just one example of many of the experiences I have had so far, and I know there will be many more over this upcoming year. Education is so precious, and I have never been more thankful for the opportunities that I have had in my life.

And as for the kids: well, I haven't really worked with them that much yet, but some of them have come by to check me out and see if I'm nice enough (I think I passed the test). One asked how old I was, and when I asked what they thought, I was mildly horrified by the answer: "Thirty." Not that there's anything wrong with being thirty, but when you're actually twenty-two, it's a bit of a low blow! Anyway, they seem like an energetic, enthusiastic bunch to say the least, so I'm sure they'll keep me busy this year and that we'll have a lot of fun together.

In conclusion, the quote from the top of this post is something Sr. Nancy said earlier today, and I feel like it really hits the nail on the head of why Casserly House is such an life-giving, wonderful place. Unsurprisingly to those who know me, I got really emotional earlier this afternoon when hearing some of the ESOL students talk about what Casserly House means to them (I even teared up, not gonna lie). As one of them simply put, "Casserly House is my home."

It is such a privilege to spend the next year of my life working here.

P.S. We have the internet now, so expect more frequent updates! :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

bean town beginnings.

Well, orientation’s over, and we’ve begun the process of getting settled in our new home in Boston.

Orientation was a blur of trying to remember everyone’s names, talks about the four values of JVC, and beginning the process of getting to know my four housemates. It was pretty inspiring to meet all of the other people who, like myself, will be spending the next year dedicating themselves to this program on the East coast. Although we came from all different areas of the country, went to a wide variety of universities, and had varied academic interests, we all bonded pretty quickly over our shared desire to serve this coming year. Orientation also included our housemates rewriting and singing a version of Rebecca Black’s song “Friday” at the JVC talent show (appropriately retitled “Boston”... yeah, that happened).

While two of our housemates drove to Boston following orientation, the other three of us (myself included) flew here on Tuesday. We were picked up at the airport by two FJVs (Former Jesuit Volunteers) who drove us to our home for the next year.

Once arriving, we were greeted with a basket of goodies from the ’10-’11 JV Boston Community, a binder about my job about Casserly House, and our landlord, Maria (more about her at a later time – she’s quite the character). The house is full of quirks, partly from the fact that it’s over 100 years old and partly because it’s been lived in by JVs for so long. We were then greeted by two other FJVs who came over with pizza and Sam Adams to begin our year. There’s a wonderful FJV community in the Boston area, and it sounds like we’ve only had a small taste of it so far.

I slept in my bed for the next year for the first time two nights ago. This house doesn’t quite feel like our home yet, but it does certainly feel like a home. I guess that comes with the territory considering that JVs have lived here for around 15 years. After some cleaning, unpacking, and rearranging, this place has begun to feel more like ours.

As part of local orientation, other FJVs have been giving us tours of our neighborhood (Jamaica Plain) and downtown Boston. There’s a potluck dinner at our house tonight, and tomorrow we are all traveling as a group to visit our placements for the first time, which will be another long, but exciting day. And on Monday, I have my first day of work!

After months of planning, I’m finally here. I’m not going to lie: this is pretty surreal. Amazing, exhausting, and (soon to be) really challenging, but also surreal. I can’t believe I just left Missouri a week ago; I can’t believe I just meet my housemates a week ago. It already feels like it’s been much, much longer.

Right now, we don’t have internet at our house (I’m actually at the local library right now), so my posts might be kind of sporadic for the time being, but I will try to keep you all as updated as I can in the coming weeks/months!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

a new beginning.

photo via pinterest

Well, friends, this is it.

After months of discernment/doubts, a lengthy application and interview process, some big news, and then more months of waiting, I leave tomorrow morning for JVC orientation.

I've spent the past few days fluctuating between being really, really excited and wondering what I've gotten myself into. Mostly though, I've leaned towards the excited side, as I'm pretty thrilled to finally begin this new adventure and next chapter in my life.

I have a lot of hopes and dreams for the next year (which I am sure I will discuss more later), but right now I will be brief, as I'm looking at a 4AM wake up call to make my 6AM flight to Baltimore. I don't know what my internet access will be like over the next couple of weeks, but I will try to check in again soon!

Monday, August 1, 2011

i ♥ stl: my favorite places.

I went up to St. Louis last week and finished packing up and cleaning my apartment, essentially severing my last ties with the Lou for the time being. However, that doesn't mean I haven't greatly enjoyed my time in St. Louis; it was the first city I ever called home, and I am hopeful that I will someday again.
In honor of my past four years in St. Louis, here's a quick roundup of a few of my favorite places in the city, broken up by category. (Yelp pages linked because I'm obsessed.) Man, I'm gonna miss this place...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

what do you want out of this year?

During a recent conversation with my uncle about my upcoming experience as a Jesuit Volunteer, he asked me the following question (which is a very good question that I've been asking myself as well): "What do you want out of this year?"

I rambled for a long time as an answer, but here is a brief statement of how I would answer if I could do it over again:

To make an impact (however big or small).
A better, more developed idea of who I am and the path I am going down.
More runs.
A Boston library card.

But in the end, this is perhaps how I should have answered him:

It's not about what I want or what I get. 
It's about what I give. 
And it's about being open to everything I receive.

Friday, July 15, 2011

mischief managed.

When I was in fourth grade, my grandparents gave me the first three Harry Potter books for Christmas. I was hooked after only a few chapters, and I raced through them all before the break was over. I waited impatiently for the next book to come out, completely unaware of what I would go through over the next 12 years. A few months later, I vividly remember sitting at my kitchen table the night after the fourth book came out, with goosebumps as I read about Voldemort's return in the final pages. The fifth book was released several years later during my first year at TIP, and there were a few anxious weeks before I could get my hands on a copy of the book to see what new adventures were in store for the trio. By the time the sixth book was released, I had caught up to Harry in age and was able to drive myself to buy the book at midnight.

But the release of the seventh book is still my favorite Harry Potter related memory, as I waited in line at midnight at a bookstore in Oban, Scotland to buy the book, and bonded with strangers of various nationalities over our shared love of this wonderful world. The universal appeal of Harry Potter became real to me that night, as I saw how much this book series meant to each and every one of us waiting in line. While I don't love the movies with the same passion as the books, they have grown on me over the years, and it's been nothing but enjoyable to see the stories and characters that I love so dearly come to life on the big screen.

So, thanks Jo, for creating one of the stories that defined my childhood, for the pleasure of getting to grow up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of mystery, magic, and imagination, but most importantly, thanks for showing me that stories can still change the world.