Margin

There are days that I am just so darn exhausted that the idea of even just thinking makes me want to cry. I sometimes wonder how I made it through college as a full time (plus extra credits) student, working part time, babysitting, interning, and volunteering all the while maintaining friendships with consistent social interactions. When I graduated I had grand ideas of what I would do with all my free time such as learn sign language, volunteer more, and explore the city. Low and behold, post graduation I have had very little free time. It is amazing how “adulting” kicks in and sucks every last ounce of energy out. There are evenings that I agree to after work activities and as it gets closer to the end of the work day I question my sanity when I agreed to do anything beyond 7pm.

There are days when I ask myself, is it supposed to be like this? Am I supposed to feel completely and utterly drained every day? Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, I enjoy the people I work with, and I feel quite loyal to the agency. Despite my love for it all, I also feel bitter somedays. I feel bitter because my job requires me pouring seemingly endless amount of passion and energy into my work with very little replenishment. There are days when I come home from a nine hour day in the field with a minimum of two hours of paperwork still left to complete.

There are days when tears just sit behind my eyes waiting for permission to fall. I used to be that person that never cried. I could count the number of times I cried during high school, college, and grad school all together on two hands. Since becoming an “adult,” I have lost count of the number of times I have cried. It is hard for me to admit to crying and I am still embarrassed every time I cry in front of someone, yet I think it has been something that I needed to teach me humility as well as to be patient and forgiving with myself. It is teaching me that I need margin in my life and that I am not wonder woman. Every time I have cried in the last year has been a result of extreme exhaustion and a reality check to myself that I need to take a step back and evaluate what I am doing.

There are days like today where I try so hard to push and push myself to do more, but eventually have to give in and listen to my body; when I realize that I am the one making my life hard. This evening I could have worked for hours; instead I chose to put work on hold to take the time to cook dinner. I decided to take my work on my balcony and pay more attention to the sun setting then the paperwork that was calling my name. I managed to finish my work and chose to take the time to write, because that is including some margin in my life.

When is enough, enough?

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All Who Are Weary

I get so caught up in the mundane yet hectic aspects of everyday life that I often times find myself physically, mentally, and emotionally drained at the end of a day. I seem to forget that part of life that includes taking a deep breath and replenishing the energy expelled.

There are days where I get to the end and feel as if I will never catch up, like I have been letting go of one big breath, but have not taken the time to breath in.

It is so important to find what feeds your soul, what can alleviate the drained feeling, what can breathe life back into your exhausted mental state.

I know what feeds my soul, but I tend to look right past it and question the reason I cannot seem to ever keep up. I am reminded time after time what it is I need, yet I act confused and clueless over and over again.

However, no matter how many times I look right past it, He is always there waiting with outstretched arms. He is always ready to comfort my weary soul and breathe life into me. I am so thankful that I am renewed by my heavenly Father and that I do not have to depend on my own strength, because if I did, I would be an irreparable basket case.

So, what is it that feeds your soul? How do you take care of yourself?


Matthew 11:28-30
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”


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Love a Little More

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I’ve never been a big fan of Valentines Day. Today was no different. Had it not been for the fact that I work in schools, I would have completely forgotten today was a holiday. However, today is about love and not necessarily the “in love” kind of love. It’s about kindness and showing others you care.

Today, I watched a mother treat her child like they were the most inconvenient ‘thing.’ While in the grocery store, I listened to a woman who was talking on the phone with her grown child stating that she just can’t take it anymore.
I came home this evening and sat on my couch cringing as I could hear the upstairs neighbor scream so loudly at her child that I could hear every word over the sound of my television.

All of these things sound so depressing on a day that is supposed to be focused on love.
And they are. 

The english language has one word for love which means, “to have an intense feeling of deep affection.” The word love can be used in many different ways when talking about basically anything. We say that we just “love” someone’s outfit, “love” our parents/children, “love” our significant other, “love” that pizza we ate last week, and more. How often do we think about what we actually mean when we say we love something?

Growing up, I went to a small church on the mountain I grew up on. The pastor used to refer to the Greek words for love frequently enough that it stuck with me. The Greek language has four different words for love that each express a different kind of love and that can build onto each other. **Agápe (ἀγάπη agápē[1]) “This is an unconditional love that sees beyond the outer surface and accepts the recipient for whom he/she is, regardless of their flaws, shortcomings or faults.” Éros (ἔρως érōs) means “love, mostly of the sexual passion.”Philia (φιλία philía) “affectionate, warm and tender platonic love; it is how you feel about someone.” Storge (στοργή storgē) “is unconditional, accepts flaws or faults and ultimately drives you to forgive.”**

What if we thought of love the way the Greek language spells it out? What if we separated the meaning and truly understood what it meant to love someone/something? What if instead of saying that we loved everything and anything, we stopped lessening the value of the word and used it for its true purpose?

What if we SHOWED love instead of only SPEAKING love?

It is wonderful hearing that special someone tell you that they love you. You feel those butterflies in your stomach and feel as if life just cannot get any better. It is comforting to hear your mother say “I love you” before bed. It feels good when someone says that they just “love” your outfit, doesn’t it?

But if the same word is used to describe how we feel about a piece of material, does it truly express how we feel about another individual?

No. Words alone cannot express that. You cannot tell someone that you love them and then turn around and scream at them until they are left feeling belittled and worthless. You cannot tell someone that you love them but then never take any interest in their well being. Love is not just a word. It is an action. Telling someone that you love them does not remove the obligation to show someone that you love them. The word love is not a replacement for the action of love.

It is witnessing things like I did today that encourage me to continue doing what I do. I love {Agápe} my kids. I love working with my kids (even though some days they drive me crazy). Sometimes I wonder if I am doing everything I can to show my kids love, because I know that some of these kids do not receive love at home. It hurts to watch my kids cry because they have not felt loved in a long time, if ever. It breaks my heart to know that some of my kids have never known the love of a nurturing parent, but have felt the abandonment of an uninterested parent. It is knowing these things about my kids that fuel the fire for me to push through and love them.

While my kids are my passion and where I focus so much of my love, they are not the only ones I love. I sometimes have to catch myself because I spend my work day loving on these kids that when I get off work, I forget to show love to my friends and family. I forget to smile at the homeless man on the street. I forget to thank the cashier that made every effort to smile at me during the entire transaction. I forget to listen to my roommate when she has had a hard day. I forget to show love in those little, yet so important ways.

So, here’s to love. Here’s to not just saying that four letter word, but showing it.
Here’s to taking that extra step, to actually meaning the words we say.


It’s Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week. We are already finishing day two, but this world could always use RAK, right? Take a moment to look at the RAK website and maybe consider participating.



1 Corinthians 3:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”



**Definitions for Greek words of love.**

New Year, New Me… {Actually, Kind of}

It is time (maybe a bit past) for the slew of “new year, new me” posts, articles, declarations, isn’t it?
Every year it is the same thing, everyone claims that this new year will be better than the last. People complain about what a terrible year the current one turned out to be or raves about how it was such a wonderful year.

Well, as always, it’s time for my “no resolutions, but this is what I learned” post.

Life has been a whirlwind lately and it has been nearly three months since I have blogged, which says a lot. Even when I was a full time grad student, an intern, and a part-time nanny I still made sure to post every month (which really is not all that often). Writing is one of the best ways for me to relieve stress, yet in time of extreme stress, it is always the first thing to be pushed to the side. *sigh* funny how that works.

2016. 

It was an interesting year to say the least. There were a lot of highlights including finishing my master’s degree, traveling to Italy, spending two weeks in New England, meeting my niece, moving into my first apartment, getting my first “adult” job, and beginning the journey of what we call a relationship.

Graduating with my master’s still seems a little surreal to say. It has now been eight months and my first loan payment hits next week, but I still hesitate to sIMG_3416ay I have my masters. Traveling to Italy was incredible and enough to only make my thirst for travel even stronger. Getting away to New img_3839England was a much needed get away that allowed me to relax while also getting a major wake up call that was absolutely needed. Meeting my niece was one of the best moments of the year and watching her grow this past year has been such a joy, she really does bring joy to everyone she meets. Moving into my first apartment was an exciting adventure that has pretty much been a disaster since day one, but I am proud of this place and that my roommate and I worked hard for it. My first job has been challenging, exciting, exhausting, stressful, rewarding, and so much more. As for this so called journey… it really began in 2015, but 2016 held the majority of it as well as the actual start of the relationship and let me tell you, it was and continues to be a huge blessing. 

Twenty Sixteen was a time for growing and figuring out who I am and who I want to be. It was a roller coaster ride that seemed to go down hill at a rapid pace and ever so slowly crawl back up only to crash down again.

The year began with me feeling completely lost, confused, and hurt. It is safe to say I went a little crazy for the first part of the year. I tested limits and pushed myself to the point of almost breaking, until I did break. I also learned how to put my personal feelings aside to be there for someone else even when it hurt me to do so. I learned that sometimes you have to let go of something in order to determine if it truly is worth holding onto. I learned that when I think I cannot handle anything else, I can actually probably handle about twice that. I learned that no matter how many times I push my relationship with God to the side, He is always there waiting patiently for me to come crawling back (However, I feel like I learn this on a regular basis).

I was ready for 2016 to end, not because it was a terrible or horrible year, but because naturally when one year ends another begins. It is the first time in many years that I did not watch the clock strike midnight on New Years Eve with expectations that everything was going to change and that I was finally getting to leave the past behind me and move on. For the first time in a while, I watched the clock strike midnight with contentment.

2017.

So, what will this year hold? We are eight days in and so far it has been a pretty good year. I am still totally and completely in over my head at work, but the work I get to do is more than worth it. My apartment is {currently} not a disaster, but last time I said that water started spewing from kitchen cabinets and the ceiling. I do not think I could be any happier with my relationship and the man that I get to talk to every day and see *almost* whenever I want to (and anyone who knows my {short} history with relationships knows that this is a big deal).

I do not do new year’s resolutions because I am constantly making goals for myself. Right now, my goals include: learning how to be calm and organized in complete chaos (aka my job and apartment), taking care of myself physically as sickness has seemed to take root and does not want to ever leave, taking care of myself mentally by writing and reading more often, and continuing to strengthen my walk with Christ because I believe that is the absolute key to being mentally and physically healthy.

While I do not want to rush 2017 in the least bit, it will be interesting to see what the next new year’s post will consist of. I have thoughts and ideas of what I want 2017 to look like, but as we all know our plans hardly ever go according to plan. 

So, here’s to a new year.

And always remembering that life is A storm You can Weather

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I’m Not Good Enough

Am I Good Enough?

I am a sore loser.
In a sense, I take criticism well. I always take it to heart and make adjustments where needed, but often I take it to heart far too heavily. That little voice whispers, “you’re not good enough.” My self-expectations are set to an unrealistic standard. I shy away from learning curves and jump in full force right off the bat. What does this do in the long run? It sets me up for failure.

No one can jump in and be great from the get go, it takes time. Not only do my self-expectations set me up for failure, but they make failing that much easier.

It’s Tuesday and I’ve been ready to call it quits on this week since Sunday night. It has been one of those weeks where one thing after another has gone wrong, and quite frankly, nothing has seemed to go right. It has led me to that feeling of wanting to just give up. Our kitchen flooded, I started thinking about how when the lease ends I’m out (we signed our lease October 1st by the way). I made a stupid mistake at work, I jumped to thinking I’m not cut out for this: did I choose the wrong field?

Ridiculous, I know. Things go wrong at any apartment, thankfully the maintenance crew responded within the hour. I have been at my {first post grad} job for one month, of course I made a stupid mistake. Yet I cannot shake the extreme feelings of just wanting to walk away. I can think of a handful of comfortable jobs that would make life a lot easier, they sound appealing. Having a set schedule everyday, please. Knowing what everyday would look like for the most part, does that exist?

But that is not why I am here. I am not here to be comfortable.

I spent a lot of time in scripture and in prayer this week as I could not get myself out of the rut I was stuck in. It was not a fleeting thought of, “I’m not good enough,” but was becoming a genuine core belief.


Galations 1:10 “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Philippians 2:13 “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”


Both of these verses were a part of my current devotional and I could not have read them at a better time. Of course with a job, I am seeking to please people. I have to meet my agency’s requirements and I have to serve my clients, but that should not be my sole focus. If I seek to please God and work in His will, then everything else will come together. As soon as my focus strays from acting as God’s vessel, everything else will quickly fall apart {as experienced}. My purpose here is not to be the best therapist in the District, nor to swoop in and change the world for my clients. My purpose is to be a vessel of Christ and allow Him to do His work through me.  If that looks like being the best therapist in the District and swooping in to change the world for my clients, then so be it! But it may not look like that. It may look like long unpredictable days talking to kids who want to tell me everything or don’t even want to tell me their name. It may look like hearing heart wrenching stories about abuse and pain. It may look like wanting to just go home and cry when nothing goes right.

Ultimately, what does it matter?
As long as my focus remains firm and my purpose stays true, then everything else is just temporary, because this is not for me. This is for Christ and this is for those kids that have never understood what love truly means. I am not called to comfortable sit behind a desk, but to work unpredictable hours while Christ uses me to make a difference in the lives of His children.

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Am I Good Enough?

Sometimes it is difficult to remember why we are here. We voluntarily put ourselves in to situations and then once we have a moment to sit back and realize what we have done, we question why.

This has been the theme as of late. It has been a roller coaster full of: Am I doing what I am supposed to be doing? With the occasional: I love what I do! Then back to: What on earth was I thinking?

Here’s the thing…

Am I good enough? A question that has passed through all of our minds at one point or another. Whether it was about a relationship, a job, or a general doubt of not being enough. It is a question that unfortunately we all want to answer ‘no’ to on occasion. It is a question that has come up over and over again for me over the last few weeks.

I just started a new job in the crazy city of DC. I just wrapped up week four at a job where I get to spend my days talking to children (that I call ‘my kids’) who have mood disorders, behavior disorders, and/or have experienced some sort of trauma. I love it, I really do, but am I good enough to do it?

How did I end up here? How am I supposed to make a difference? How is a little white girl from small town West Virginia supposed to change DC? How is the girl with hair to her waist, that still looks like she is in high school, supposed to be taken seriously in a city where status is everything? Culture is everything and my culture just does not fit here nor do I fit into the culture of DC. When my kids talk to me about racial hate crimes committed towards their friends and family, I cannot tell them that I understand. I do not understand. How is the girl who had a pretty perfect childhood supposed to help the kids that were left alone to take care of themselves at age three because their parents were too high to remember that they had another human being to care for? How is the girl who talks to both of her parents on a regular basis supposed to explain to a child who has been in eight foster homes in the last year that he/she is wanted and loved?

I do not know how I got put in this position. Well, technically, I do. I went to school and got two degrees. Then I took a test to get my official ‘license to practice.’ I applied to jobs and interviewed. At which point an agency said, “hey, this girl has no post graduate experience, but she went to school, passed the test, and smiles a lot.” and hired me. Don’t get me wrong, I worked hard for my degrees and my license. I studied a lot and got good grades, but these are people’s lives. These are the lives of individuals that have faced one obstacle after another.
Am I good enough? Because these people deserve the absolute best.

Ultimately, I know why I am here. I am here because I am called to be. The moment I began working with children in the city during my graduate internship, I knew God wanted me here. Truthfully, I am not good enough and no amount of job or life experience is going to change that. However, despite not being good enough, God is going to use me for greatness. He is going to use me to reach my kids, to be the light in their little lives that are so full of darkness. I may not be able to relate to the child who has never experienced the love of two parents, but I can ensure that that child knows that they are loved and that they are wanted.  I may never be able to understand what it feels like to be verbally or physically attacked due to my race, but I can provide a safe space where a child will never feel unequal or unsafe. I may not know what it feels like to be abandonded, but I can show the love of the one that will never abandon any of His children.


 

Reminiscing 

One year. Three hundred and sixty-five days. So much can happen in that time frame.

You see, one year ago tomorrow I had my very first day at my internship for my master’s program. I had been in DC for just ten days and basically did not know anyone.

Fast forward a year and so much has changed. I now have my own apartment with my roommate (so our own apartment) who happens to be the friend that I grew closest to over the last year in DC. On Monday I start my very first, career focused job. Tonight I look back on a year of friendship with someone who has come to mean a lot to me. A lot can change in three hundred and sixty-five days.

It still boggles my mind that we’re halfway through September. My roommate laughs at me because she claims that I can never believe that we are at any point in a month or year.

But it is so true. Time flies. I cannot believe that my one year of graduate school is already done and four months behind me. I cannot believe how much I have changed as a person. The last year has tested and pushed me in ways that I have never experienced before. It has been difficult and honestly I made a lot of decisions I wish I had not, but I have grown. I have grown so much and come out so much stronger. Not by my own doing of course.

I firmly believe in divine intervention. I believe in a God who has a purpose for everything and guides us through any and all circumstances. He has proven Himself time and time again to me. He proves Himself when I am not even looking for it. For example, tonight I was on my way home and decided to make a pit stop. I wanted to say hello to a friend I had not seen since April. While waiting for my friend, someone else came up to talk to me and in a matter of minutes had me talking to yet another person who was interested in volunteering with YoungLives. Anyone who knows me knows that I love YoungLives. It is one of my greatest passions. So, because of a last minute decision to stop and say hello, I got to talk about my passion to someone who wants to make it her passion. It is in those moments I feel Gods presence.

As I sit here at night in front of the World War II memorial, listening to the water fountains, I can’t help but reminisce over the last year. Today is a significant day to me. It really only means anything to me alone, but it marks the beginning of things so important to me. If a year ago today had not happened exactly as it did, I would be in a completely different place. My sentimental self is making a bigger deal of it than this day probably deserves, but that does not change how I feel about it. So, I’ll continue to reminisce until I feel that I have reminisced enough.

It’s Simple

Every year I look forward to YoungLives camp and every year it exceeds my expectations. It is one week of the year that love shines through no matter what happens. It is the one time that the expectations are simple: to love.

Showing love is not always simple. It is difficult to show love when someone is angry at you for misplacing an item. It is difficult to show love when your time is taken for granted. It is difficult to show love when you have not gotten a full nights sleep and no one seems to care.

However, even when all of those things are a factor in this simple week of the year, it no longer matters. The moment you watch the young mothers and their children get off the bus and enter camp, your petty complaints do not seem to matter anymore. Your lack of sleep does not compare to the young mothers lack of a safe place to rest her head at night. Your exhausted arms continue to hold crying babies and toddlers for hours on end to ensure they feel safe in a world where the odds are against them.

This year I was asked to be a co-leader of a nursery with one of my good friends. I went into the week excited, but also with a bit of a bad attitude. It did not take long IMG_5079for the bad attitude to turn around and for my complete focus to be on doing my job and taking care of kids. We were assigned to the Butterfly nursery which was for two to two and a half year olds.
We (not so patiently) waited to receive the names and ages of the children that would be joining us the next day.

See, child care volunteers arrive on Day 0 to start training and preparing for the campers to arrive. On Day 1, the campers arrive and the nurseries receive a list of names for the children that they will spend the week with. Our nursery was blessed to be one on one for the week as we had seven wonderful volunteers and seven beautiful children.

After dinner on day 1, we reported to our nursery for the first time and got to know our children. IMG_5089We had a little guy who was the man of the nursery. He was the smallest of the bunch, but he loved to take things apart and figure out how to put them together. He enjoIMG_5096yed pushing the toy lawnmower through the grass every time we took him outside. Then we had the little ham.
He cried for his momma every day, but as soon as the camera came out his smile lit up his entire face and his cute little dimple made its appearance. He loved to give random hugs and {unexpectedly} jump on our backs when we were sitting on the floor.

IMG_5087We had our little adventurer who figured out every single toy in the nursery after being in there for five minutIMG_5134es. She was quiet, but did not take any gruff from the boys. Then, we had our little mom of the nursery. She carried around her stuffed lamby every day and pushed around a stroller. When we went on walks, she insisted on pushing a stroller, not being pushed in a stroller. She was soft spoken and sweet as can be. IMG_5175We had a little girl who always had her pacifier in her mouth, but was far from being a baby. She was independent and smart as can be. She quietly roamed the nursery and enjoyed coloring pictures and watching what others were doing.

IMG_5148The biggest kid in our nursery was also pretty quiet, but he was so smart. He completed every single puzzle we had about one hundred times over.

Finally, we had our old man of the nursery. IMG_5104He cam marching in every evening, but in the morning he was a bit on the grumpy side as his mom made it clear he was not a morning person. He carried around a minnie mouse doll and loved to tackle all the nursery workers with it. One day him and I sat on the front porch waiting for buddies to come back from a walk. While we were sitting there, someone from another nursery came up our driveway to say hello. This little guy furrowed his brows, threw his fist in the air, and yelled “Go away and don’t come back.” I could not keep from laughing.

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This was the first year that I was with older kids. I had never been place in a nursery with children older than one and a half. It was different as they were all independent and my arms felt empty all week. In years past I had always held a baby in each arm pretty much for the entire week. At first I felt a little sad to have empty arms, but then I realized it was a blessing. I got to watch these kids show their unique personalities and discover the different ways they could play with each other and test the boundaries of the workers. I got to learn the different ways that each child needed to be comforted when they were missing their moms. It was the first year that the children I worked with could actually verbalize what they were feeling.

Every morning I walked to a bench before childcare had to report to our morning meeting. I sat by the rock wall with the sound of a water fountain in the background. I listened to the water while reading my devotions. Devotions that focused on the power of prayer. Let me tell you, the power of prayer is clearly apparent during this week. 

I went to camp thinking this could very well be my last year. I left camp giving hugs saying, “I’ll see you next year.” I love that place. At the end of the week I was talking to another volunteer about what we did at home. I said that I had just graduated with my masters in social work and was working on getting a job. She stopped and said, “So, you are telling me, that you take a week off from your social work job, to come do this?” I again explained that I did not have a job yet. She just responded by saying, “Still. You are a social worker and yet you consider this fun.” 

I do. It is not easy. You hear stories that break your heart. You hold two year olds until your arms feel like they are going to fall off. You do not get nearly enough sleep and you sweat like there is no tomorrow.

But I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

 

Italia

4 planes
19 trains
9 buses
5 boats
6 cars
95 miles on foot

Day 1: 4/30/16 4mi

We boarded our airplane at 10:30. The plane was set to take off at 11:05. The row held four seats, we got the two middle seats. We settled in for our nine hour flight.

Day 2: 5/1/16 11mi

We were served dinner at 12:30am. They served us salmon with mixed vegetables, Caesar salad, spinach salad, bread, and a brownie. I had hoped to sleep most of the night, but I couldn’t. Instead, I watched the Martian. By the time it ended around 2am I still could not fall asleep. I decided to write. I wrote until 4:30 in the morning. Apparently I had a lot on my mind and what better time to address it then when you are trapped in a seat for 9 hours?

We landed in Istanbul at 1:30 (TK time). We had a six hour layover there where we ate, slept, walked around, and waited until ten minutes before boarding until they announced the platform. We boarded and off we went.

We landed in Roma at 11:55pm (IT time). We had booked an airBnB fifteen minutes away from the airport. The host agreed to pick us up and did so around 12:30am. We got back and went to sleep.

Day 3: 5/2/16 9mi

We woke up around 7:30am and the hosts provided us with little cakes, tea, and fruit for breakfast. The hosts drive us to the train station where we set off on a two hour train ride for Firenze. We had to catch a bus to our new host. The bus system was confusing and it took us extra time to figure it out. We ended up missing our stop and had to walk back two stops. Then, we got lost trying to find the house. Eventually, we found it and our host rang us in. She was a sweet older lady who owned a two bedroom flat in Firenze. She showed us around and told us we had access to the kitchen.

We then left and made our way to town Centrale. We explored Duo

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Duomo Firenze

mo Firenze, Galleria del’Accademia, and more. We climbed to an overlook and had a spectacular view of the entire city. Around sunset, we made our way back to the flat. We stopped at a grocery store and bought food to make pasta and asparagus. We called it an early night.

Day 4: 5/3/16 9mi

In the morning we packed up around 8:30 and caught a train to Bologna. We wandered around with all of our luggage on our backs. We explored IMG_3451the university, the city market, and the monastery. At the market we picked up fresh salami and cheese that we enjoyed for lunch. We laughed as we ended up with 1/2 a pound of salami simply due to not knowing how to ask for less. We also explored a medieval museum just because they had lockers where we could store our luggage to give our backs sweet relief after hours of lugging it around.

In the evening, we took a train over to Mestre where we checked in to our next airBnB. Afterwards we found a little restaurant that serves amazing ravioli. We order a glass of Merlot but neither of us cared for it too much so we left it half full.

Day 5: 5/4/16 8mi

We allowed ourselves to sleep in this morning. It was wonderful and then we took our time getting ready. Afterwards we heads back to the train station, took a train to Venezia and

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Boat ride view to Murano

then a boat to Murano. Murano was incredible. The moment I stepped foot on the island, I was in love. The island is known for its glass making. Every store we passed sold some form of glass. Earrings, necklaces, plates, clocks, lamps, knick knacks. You name it. We got to watch a bowl get made. We ate at a restaurant where I had my first Italian pizza.

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Burano

It was absolutely incredible. We explored the island for hours. The canals, the houses, the glass, it was all amazing. After several hours we decided to make our way to Burano. Burano is know for its lace. I didn’t think I would be as into the lace as I was, but I couldn’t get enough. Burano was beautiful with its canals and brightly colored houses.

It’s no wonder Venezia is known for being the most expensive island, it was difficult not to buy everything. The bridges and canals just make it a stunning city.

When we got tired, we took the ferry and train back to Mestre where we bought a suitcase and then realized that we were out of euro. We searched until we found an ATM machine and got more euro.

We then showered and finished the salami and cheese.

Day 6: 5/5/16 9mi

We got up at 6:30 so that we could catch the train by 7:30. We had limited time but wanted to still go to Sam Marco and see Doge’s Palace and Saint Mark’s Basilica. Doge’s Palace opened at 8:30 so we got there fifteen minutes before. The line filled up fast. We made it in by 8:45 and walked through. We got to cross the Bridge of Sighs and walk down to the

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Bridge of Sighs

dungeon. The rooms in the palace were incredible with ornate murals and gold engravings.

Saint Mark’s Basilica was incredible in the outside. The detail in the architecture was breathtaking. The index was beautiful, but it was too crowded to thoroughly enjoy it. We still had time before we had to catch our next train so we walked over to Rialto Bridge and plaza.

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St. Mark’s Basilica

Unfortunately the bridge was under construction and wasn’t much of a sight. We wandered around until we caught our boat back.

We bought a second suitcase, a bunch of groceries, and checked out of our airBnB and got on the train. We had a three hour train to Roma, then caught another train to Napoli.

We arrived in Napoli around 6:30pm. The moment we stepped out of the train station we could tell that this part of our trip would be different from the rest. We had to catch the metro to get to our next airBnB. We figured out the system and made our way.

We got off the metro and walked into the city center. There was trash everywhere, the air was different, and the people were different. We timidly wandered around trying to follow the directions the host has sent me. We could not figure it out and by the time I got my phone out to call the host, he found us on the street. He asked who we were and then he led us to the building where we entered a tiny metal door into what felt like a dungeon. We followed him to the apartment where he presented the key, opened the door, and began to spit all kinds of information at us. He told us which switches not to touch and all of the rules and then left. Every other place had just been a room in someone’s apartment, this places was its on studio apartment with a bed, mini kitchen, and a bathroom. He left us and we just laughed. We felt so lost and out of place and unsure of what to do next. We tried logging into the wifi and with great difficulty, we eventually did.

We then headed out to find a pizza place that had reportedly the best gluten free pizza ever. We sat down and ate the best pizza we had ever had followed by some delicious gelato. When we got back to the apartment we laughed more and expressed our concern about staying in this city. We looked into changing our train ticket so that we would only spend one full day here instead of two, but did not have much success.

Day 7: 5/6/16 13mi

We woke up with some of the hesitation from the night before. We were still unsure about staying until we reached Pompeii. The scenery and the history behind the city helped ease our fears.

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Pompeii

We spent a few hours wandering around there (where I got pizza for breakfast)

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Sorrento

and then headed to Sorrento. Sorrento was next in line to Venice. It was absolutely breath taking. We wandered around the streets and found food. We ate at a restaurant where we got prosciutto and melon to share and I got the best Gnocchi with tomato sauce and cheese. We got Panna Cotta for dessert with Lemoncello. We thoroughly enjoyed the Panna Cotta, but struggled to drink the Lemoncello. We laughed at ourselves as we drank the shot in multiple sips.

We spent the afternoon walking around and exploring the streets of Sorrento. Eventually we stumbled upon the view of the coast. We found beach access and walked down the side of the mountain to get to it. The water was as blue as could be and was beautiful with the sky line holding mountains and boasts of villages.

I decided I wanted to go swimming. So we made the trek back up the mountain so that I could buy a bathing suit. After, we made our way back down where I got to run into the Gulf di Napoli on the coast of Sorrento.

Then we spent a few more hours walking around, buying all things lemon, and eating gelato. Twice in one sitting.

We ended the day in Naples by getting a gluten free pizza and eating it back at our flat.

Day 8: 5/7/16 12.5mi

Today woke keep around 7:30 and gathered our belongings. We walked to the hotel that our host worked at. We had been told that we could leave our luggage there for the day since we had to check out of the flat.

We got lost trying to find the hotel and wandered around for a while. Eventually we asked for help and were directed in the right direction. We found the hotel and fit our selves, two backpacks, and two suitcases in an elevator designed for three really small people. We found the place and deposited our luggage. We got lost trying to find the train station, but a woman who spoke English stopped and asked us if we needed help. She pointed us in the right direction and said she was headed that way as well. We got to the station and to Mt. Vesuvius we went.

We got to Ercolana here we purchased bus tickets, found an ATM, and got the last seat on the bus. The last seat as in we had to share the single front seat up the side of the mountain that overlooked the entire city. It was insane and incredible. IMG_4082

The bus dropped us off at the end of the road and we had to hike the rest of the way. We hiked straight up the side of the mountain until we reached the crater. It was so vast and much larger than I had expected. There were even vents producing smoke and the smell of sulfur was strong. After lots of pictures, we hiked back down, caught our bus, and made it back to Ercolana where we grabbed a quick lunch.

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Mt. Vesuvius

After, we headed back to Napoli to pick up our luggage and catch a train. We got lost trying to find the hotel. Again. We found it and got our luggage. We made it to the train station with an hour to spare so we enjoyed some gelato and piano music. There was a piano in the middle of the station up against the elevator wall. People took turns playing and it sounded lovely.

We made our way to Roma and checked into our last AirBnB for the trip. It was a quaint little apartment. The host did not live in the apartment, but made sure she was there to greet us and was incredibly helpful. We enjoyed a great nights sleep that night.

Day 9: 5/8/16 11mi

We decided to allow ourselves to get some extra sleep and started our day a little later than we had been. After sleeping in, we made our way into the city where we spent hours walking around.

Our first stop was an indoor farmer’s market. Upon walking in, we were stopped by a camera lady who asked if we were tourists. She continued to ask questions such as, “Why did you decide to stop at the farmer’s market.” My friend answered most of the questions and when we walked away we just laughed at how bland our answers hIMG_4195ad been. The market was full of vendors selling different things such as meat, cheese, jams, pasta made on the spot, and more. We found our way to a vendor that was selling fresh homemade gelato. We both chose to get the largest size which normally consisted of two scoops of gelato.
We chose our two flavors and then he continued asking, “What about this one? One more?” Until we each had four large scoops of differing flavors. It was by far the richest gelato I have ever had. It was so rich that even I, ice cream/gelato fanatic, could not finish it.

After leaving the farmer’s market, we continued on and bought tickets to see pantheon and the colosseum. The architecture was increIMG_4342dible and it was amazing to think of what it had looked like centuries ago. We also walked to the Trevi Fountain which was absoluIMG_4173tely breath taking, but also intensely crowded.

We called it an early night and made our way back to the AirBnB where we made a dinner of gnocchi and sauce. Since we had pushed ourselves to do so much in the days prior to getting to Rome, it was nice to finally have some time to just relax. It was worth it to push ourselves to do everything in the other cities, but it was also absolutely necessary to slow down at the end of the trip.

Day 10: 5/9/16 18mi

IMG_4404Our final day it Italia was spent exploring more of Roma. We made out way to the Vatican museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, the a castle that I cannot remember the name of. The castle provided beautiful views of the city of Roma. After the castle, we made our way to the Vatican Museums. We spent quite some time admiring the intricate walls and ceilings that were decorated with detailed paintings and encrusted in gold. As we continued to walk, we eventually came up to the Sistine Chapel. We were rushed through a entryway, told pictures were not allowed, and continuously commanded to keep moving through a thick crowd of people. We were in and out of the Sistine Chapel so quickly that we had hardly had the chance to  admire it. Upon exiting, we looked at each other and then agreed that it had been quite anti-climactic. The entire museum was so intricately designed that the Sistine Chapel did not stand out as much as we had IMG_4450anticipated it to. As we ended our tour of the Vatican, we made it to the gift shop where we saw post cards of the painting of God’s finger reaching down to give life to Adam. It was then that we realized that we had been so overwhelmed by the art work and being told to keep moving, that we completely missed the most iconic painting in the Sistine Chapel. We kicked ourselves a bit but also laughed at the ridiculousness that was our situation.

Our next stop was St. Peter’s Basilica. I had worn a dress that day that did not have full IMG_4530sleeves and did not go to the knee. As we got in line to enter the basilica, we were told that our shoulders and knees had to be covered. So, we made due by wrapping a sweater around my legs to cover my knees and using my scarf to cover my shoulders. It was quite the outfit indeed. We managed to cover eighteen miles on foot even with sleeping in and calling it an early night.

Once we arrived back at the AirBnB we began to pack up and plan how we would get to the airport in the morning. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 7:20am and therefore we wanted to be there by 5:30am. As we were trying to plan, we realized that all of the public transportation shut down and did not open again until 5am. We needed to be at the airport by 5:30 and it was over hour away. We contemplated calling a taxi, but then were informed that there was a train that ran all night. We found out about a night bus that ran every thirty minutes, however the site did not clarify whether it was on the hour, quarter, or what. So, we planned to leave ourselves two and a half hours to get to the airport. We called it a night after eleven and our alarm went off at 2:45 in the morning.

Day 11: 5/10/16

We made it to the bus stop by 3:15, were picked up around 3:45 and made it to the train station by 4:00. Despite everything we had been told and read, the train station did not open until 4:30. We started to stress out a little bit as it was pushing it awfully close.

While waiting outside of the station, we met two young men who spoke very little english, but tried their best to help us. They told us it would be faster to take another bus. We ran around the bus station for a while only to discover that one would not be running for quite some time. The guy assured us that if our flight was not until 7:20, that we would be just fine catching the train. He asked us where in America we were from and if we knew anything about Wyoming. We told him that we did not and asked why. He continued to pull out his camera and show us pictures of his girlfriend from Wyoming that had come to visit Italia. They met in a restaurant where he worked as her server and the rest is history. It was adorable how absolutely enamored he was with her.

The station eventually opened and we ran in to buy our tickets. We were even more disheartened to learn that the first train would not be leaving until 5:30 which would put us at the airport around 6:30. We bought the tickets with no other option and made our way to the terminal. At this point I was stressed to the max and sincerely believing that we were going to miss our flight. I even started looking up the next flight. After a little while we calculated everything out and realized it was not doable. So, we left the station and found a taxi. The driver asked us what time our flight was. He told us he could get us to the airport in thirty-five to forty minutes. The man sped and while it was slightly terrifying, we just sat in the back hoping to not only make it to the airport on time, but to make it there alive. He made it there in just twenty-five minutes. We got lost in the airport for a little bit, but arrived at our terminal just as they were beginning to line up to board.

We had a layover in Istanbul where we got some snacks, including Turkish Delight, and just wandered around the airport. After a few hours we boarded our last plane and began the last ten hour leg of our journey. Landing in the United States is much more time consuming and complicated than in Europe. It took us five minutes to get through customs in Italy, but to reenter our home it took us nearly an hour.

As sad as I was that our trip was over, it felt so good to be home. My friend picked me up from the airport around 7:30pm EST , we drove home, dropped her off, and I turned around and went to a friends hockey game.

I did not go to bed until 3:30 in the morning which meant that with the time change and all, I had not slept in over thirty hours. I slept until about 7:30am at which point I got up, packed my belongings up in my car, went to a meeting and by 2pm finished loading up my car with everything I owned and drove two hours to my parents with my friend. We unloaded my car that evening and stayed the night. The following morning we drove back to DC where I went to another hockey game and then the next day we loaded my car up with my friend’s belongings and began the drive to move her back to Boston.

The drive was supposed to be about eight hours, but due to traffic took us about twelve. I was fine driving for the first six hours, but finally asked my friend to drive halfway through. At some point I realized that I could not keep my eyes open any longer and I passed out for the remainder of the drive. Jet lag at its finest, only hitting three days late.

Our trip to Italia was absolutely incredible and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity. The trip was affordable and if I never make it back to Italia, I feel like I covered enough grounds to hold me over.

Plane Ticket through Turkish Arilines: $608
Lodging through AirBnB: $435 (split between two people=$217)
Train/Bus/Taxi: Approximately $400 (each)
Museum and Attraction Tickets: Approximately $150
Food for the Entire Trip and Souvenirs (and lots of gelato): Approximately $450

Since I don’t remember exact prices of everything, the numbers do not add up exactly, but for a ten day trip to Europe I spent $1840.

Drive

Do you ever think about all of the different ways you could die? This question is not intended to be a morbid one nor is it supposed to be one that raises concern. It is simply a matter of fact question. Do you ever think about your fears and how they correlate? I am terrified of lightning, yet when I see lightning I do not think about death, I am just terrified. The ocean is one of my absolute favorite things, but when I am in it I think about how the ocean could very easily kill me. The ocean is not a fear of mine, I do not fear it or the possible ways that it could kill me, but I acknowledge it. There are animals in the ocean that could kill me, such as a shark. The ocean current could pull me out and I could drown. Driving is one of those things that I do out of necessity, but also when I just need time to think. However, every time I get behind the wheel I think about the fact that I am in control of a powerful machine. There are so many things that could go wrong while behind the wheel or even as a passenger. Even though these thoughts cross my mind on a regular basis, they are just thoughts.

Death is all around us and I do not believe it to be abnormal to think about it. I am not a fearful person. In fact, I tend to be more daring then fearful. The thoughts are not debilitating and do not prevent me from doing what I love or simply doing every day things that are necessary for my lifestyle.

However, knowing that the things that I love and my every day actions could easily result in a mishap, it pushes me to think about the life I do have left to live. You never know how long you have. It is impossible to predict and life can be taken as quickly as it is given.

So, the next question is, what drives you? What drives you to live your life the way you do? What mark do you want to leave on the world when you go and how will you ensure that it is left?